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China calls for quick resumption of EU-Iran talks

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Sep 14 (Reuters) China called today for a quick resumption of European talks with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, as Washington ratcheted up pressure for sanctions against Tehran.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said an earlier meeting between Iran and key European powers -- Britain, Germany and France -- had shown positive signs.

''The pressing thing now is to grasp the positive results from the meeting between the EU three and Iran, and grasp the opportunity for more talks between both sides,'' Qin told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Repeating China's mantra of calls for compromise, Qin said any hopes of a negotiated settlement over Iran's nuclear activities ''should be fully explored and not rashly abandoned.'' China's latest comments came amid signs of cracks between the United States and Europe over how to respond to Iran's refusal to halt nuclear fuel enrichment, as the UN Security Council demanded.

Washington suggested yesterday that Iran was ''aggressively'' pursuing atomic weapons and should face sanctions, but EU allies insist it is not too late for a negotiated solution. Iran says its nuclear activities are for peaceful power generation, not weapons.

A meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani, set for today, was postponed without reasons given.

In Washington on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she believed Iran had cancelled the Solana-Larijani meeting and that this suggested Tehran did not wish to suspend its nuclear activities.

The United States has been spearheading efforts to draw up punitive UN sanctions against Tehran over suspicions it is secretly trying to develop the ability to make nuclear weapons.

But China and Russia, with veto power over Security Council resolutions, have repeatedly said they are averse to sanctions, and EU powers have also said they want more time to seek a diplomatic compromise.

REUTERS BDP BD1447

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