China on Thursday refuted reports it would ban foreign athletes from bringing bibles to the Olympic village during the Beijing Olympic games next year, dismissing them as "sheer rumors."
"We have taken note of the reports and checked with the relevant authorities. The facts prove that the reports are sheer rumors," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao told a routine press conference.
The Catholic News Agency published a report in November citing Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport and Spanish daily La Razon as saying that bibles were on a list of "prohibited objects" in the Olympic village.
"The Chinese government has never ever issued such a rule, nor any such statement," Liu said. "China's religious affairs authorities and the Beijing Olympic organizing committee have not -- and could not -- issue a rule banning the Bible in the Olympic village."
China has always respected and protected the religious freedom of foreigners living in China in line with laws and regulations, he said.
According to the Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens Within the Territory of the People's Republic of China, foreigners are allowed to bring in religious publications, audio-video materials, or other objects for personal use, Liu said.
"We are suspicious of the ultimate motivations of those who spread such rumors. They should be responsible, and not do things that are not beneficial for them and undermine mutual understanding between China and the world," he added.
Venezuelan FM's coming visit
Nicolas Maduro Moros, minister of foreign affairs for Venezuela, will pay an official visit to China from November 13 to 15 at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Liu announced.
North Korean nuclear issue
China expects to see a consensus from all parties on whether to disclose the specific measures for the disablement of the nuclear facilities of North Korea, Liu said when asked whether China is ready to publicly disclose such disablement measures.
"There is almost no problem with China on doing so," said Liu, adding disclosure requires the parties reaching a consensus.
Liu said China is glad to see measures on disablement going well and hopes it will proceed smoothly to the completion of the tasks set forth in the joint document issued on October 3 by all participants in the six-party talks -- China, North Korea, South Korea, the US, Russia, and Japan.
North Korea agreed in the document to disable all existing nuclear facilities and to provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs by the end of this year.
The document said the disabling of the five-megawatt experimental reactors, the reprocessing plant (radiochemical laboratory), and the nuclear fuel rod fabrication facility in Yongbyon would be completed by December 31.
China hopes the commitment made in the Oct. 3 joint document can be honored as scheduled, Liu added.
Iranian nuclear issue
China Thursday called on Iran to "positively respond" to international concerns about its nuclear program, a day after Iran announced it had installed 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
"We have taken note of the developments and we ask Iran to positively respond and attach importance to the concerns and voice of the international community," Liu said.
He said Iran should show restraint and adopt a flexible attitude in relevant dialogue and contact.
China still hopes the issue can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and consultation, Liu said.
China will keep playing a constructive role in this issue and is willing to continue its communication with relevant parties in an effort to push the issue in the correct direction, he added.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran has already installed 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment in defiance of the UN's calls for the project's suspension.
The UN Security Council has imposed two resolutions against Tehran's nuclear program since last December, demanding a halt to the uranium enrichment work. Iran's senior officials have repeatedly refused the request.
Suicide bombing in Afghanistan
China strongly condemns a suicide bombing that happened in Afghanistan on Tuesday and expresses condolences to victims, Liu said.
The suicide bombing was reported to have killed dozens of children and parliamentarians at a sugar factory in Baghlan province north of Kabul.
China also expressed its sympathy to the injured people and the family members of the victims of the bombing, Liu said.
Liu noted that as a friendly neighbor to Afghanistan, China would continue to support the Afghan government's unremitting efforts to crack down on terrorist forces and to safeguard domestic stability.
(Xinhua News Agency November 9, 2007)