China yesterday called for the continuation of diplomatic efforts to tackle the Iranian nuclear issue, stressing that there is still the possibility of settlement within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"China believes that continuing diplomatic efforts remains a wise option," Zhang Yan, director of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Arms Control, told IAEA board members in Vienna yesterday.
"China appreciates and supports the diplomatic efforts of all parties concerned and calls on the international community to exercise patience and restraint to allow these efforts to bear fruit," he said.
To create a more favorable atmosphere for diplomacy, parties should not take any steps to exacerbate the already tense situation, he added.
He asked Iran to observe all obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, in particular, to implement the relevant resolutions of the IAEA board.
In terms of uranium enrichment-related activities, Iran should cooperate fully with the IAEA, increase transparency, and take confidence-building measures so as to create the conditions necessary for resolving the issue within the IAEA framework, he said.
By the same token, China urged that all parties exercise flexibility and work toward a solution that ensures both non-proliferation and Iran's rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In this regard, China believes that Russia's proposal to move the uranium enrichment processes to Russia is worth considering.
"The issue is at a critical juncture," Zhang said. There exist both a risk of deterioration and chances for improvement.
"The key is whether parties choose dialogue over confrontation," he noted.
Zhang said China has taken note that the IAEA has not reported any diversion of Iran's declared nuclear materials to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. "We have also taken note that the inspection is ongoing and there are certain pending issues."
He said China supports continued IAEA inspections and asks Iran to cooperate more actively.
The IAEA board made a decision to report Iran's case to the UN Security Council on February 4. This week's board meeting is considered a crucial next-step.
The 35 members of the board are divided on the issue. The US and the EU3 -- the UK, France and Germany -- insist that the UNSC should now take up the issue. Other countries, especially those from the Non-Aligned Movement, argue that the issue should be kept within the IAEA.
(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2006)