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FM: Next UN Secretary-General Should Be Asian
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan on Thursday told a regular press conference that the next UN Secretary-General should come from an Asian country since an Asian has not held the post for 34 years.

Kong added that some Asian countries have already put forward candidates.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan completes his second term in office this December. Under the UN Charter, a new secretary-general is nominated by 15 member states of the UN Security Council and is confirmed by the 191-nation General Assembly.

Iran nuclear standoff

China hopes that Russia's invitation to Iran to establish a joint venture in uranium enrichment will help break the current stalemate on the nuclear issue, Kong said.

China supports Russia's proposal and has always backed every effort to enhance the international treaty of nuclear non-proliferation, Kong said.

Russia's top nuclear energy official Sergei Kiriyenko said on Wednesday that a high-ranking Iranian delegation will visit Russia on February 16 to discuss the proposal. If Iran accepts the proposal, it would be the first to be involved in uranium enrichment on Russian territory.

As part of international efforts to solve the Iranian nuclear dispute, Russia has proposed that uranium enrichment - the most sensitive part of the nuclear energy process - be carried out under a joint venture within their borders.

Iran resumed research on uranium enrichment last month and announced it had ended all voluntary cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This included impromptu UN inspections of its nuclear production sites and suspension of uranium enrichment after the IAEA voted last week to report the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.

Uranium enriched at low levels can fuel nuclear reactors, but if enriched further can be used for nuclear weapons.

Pakistani president to visit China

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf will pay a state visit to China from February 19 to 23 at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kong announced.

Musharraf's visit marks the 55th anniversary of establishment of China-Pakistan diplomatic ties, Kong said.

China and Pakistan will discuss how to further promote the friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two, Kong said, adding that they will also exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern.

The related departments from the two sides will also sign some documents of cooperation, Kong said.

Musharraf will also visit southwest China's Sichuan Province.

China and Pakistan are friendly neighbors who share "an all-weather friendship and all-scope cooperation," Kong said. "I believe that Musharraf's visit will help push forward the strategic partnership of cooperation between the two countries."

Resumption of six-party Korean nuclear talks

Kong called on the participating countries of the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue work towards reopening the negotiations at an early date.

He said that all concerned parties, namely China, North Korea, the US, South Korea, Russia and Japan, have kept "conducive" and "positive" contacts in recent months.

The first phase of the fifth round of the six-party talks was held in Beijing last November.

Kong conceded that financial sanctions imposed on North Korea by the US represent a "new impediment and complicating factor".

The US froze the US-based assets of eight North Korean companies last October, accusing them of proliferating weapons of mass destruction. Pyongyang refused to resume the talks as a result.

Cyprus issue

China deems the Cyprus issue should be resolved fairly and reasonably, and in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions, Kong said.

China is very concerned about the Cyprus issue, Kong said, adding that the Chinese government has always called for full respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus.

He said the legitimate rights and interests of both Turkish and Greek Cypriots should be guaranteed.
"Any solution should take into account the interests and concerns of both parties," Kong added.

Kong pointed out that China supports what UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has done to accelerate the process of resolution.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, with the Greek-controlled part in the south, and Turkish part in the north.

UN-led efforts to reunite the island failed in April 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN reunification plan in a referendum, which was approved by the Turkish Cypriots in the north.

(Xinhua News Agency February 10, 2006)

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