US President George W. Bush said Tuesday that "all options are on the table" to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons, but said he will continue to focus on the international diplomatic option to persuade Teheran to drop its nuclear ambitions.
The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking atom bombs, was expected to push for targeted sanctions against Teheran when it meets the UN Security Council's other permanent members Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany in Moscow.
Deputy foreign ministers from the six nations are meeting ahead of an end-April deadline for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report on whether Iran is complying with United Nations demands that it halt uranium enrichment.
"We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so," Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden.
Bush also said there should be a unified effort involving countries "who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon," and he noted that US officials are working closely with nations such as Great Britain, France and Germany on the issue."
"We will continue to work diplomatically," he said.
Washington says it does not want to embargo Iran's oil and gas industries to avoid creating hardship for the Iranian people. Iran is the world's fourth-biggest oil exporter.
China, which sent an envoy to Iran on Friday to try to defuse the standoff, repeated a call for a negotiated solution.
"We hope all sides will maintain restraint and flexibility to create conditions favorable to an appropriate resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin reaffirmed Moscow's insistence on more diplomacy.
"We are convinced that it's impossible to lift concerns of the world community about the Iranian nuclear program by sanctions or the use of force," Kamynin said in remarks broadcast by Russia's state television.
Iran sticks to its position
Iran told world powers Tuesday it would pursue its right to develop nuclear technology, whatever they decide at the meeting in Moscow.
"I recommend that they do not make hasty decisions, be prudent and study their path in the past," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said, IRNA news agency reported. "Any time they have pressured Iran they have got adverse results."
Hamid Reza Asefi later said: "Whatever the result of this meeting might be, Iran will not abandon its rights (to nuclear technology)."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the army was ready to defend the nation, speaking at an annual parade in which battle tanks and short-range missiles were towed past. "It will cut off the hands of any aggressors and will make any aggressor regret it," Ahmadinejad said.
(China Daily April 19, 2006)