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Shanghai meeting on Iran reaches consensus
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Senior officials from the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany yesterday reached a consensus on the major part of a plan to restart talks with Iran over its nuclear development, vowing to adopt "creative thinking" to address the long-lasting problem.

"We held in-depth talks on a wide range of aspects of the plan to resume the talks, including nuclear energy, political mutual trust building and economic cooperation," Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs He Yafei, who represented China in presiding over the meeting, said at a press briefing yesterday afternoon after the closed one-day discussion.

"I can tell you that positive progress has been made during the talks and the meeting was a constructive one ... We have reached consensus on the main part of the plan, despite some issues left for further discussion," He said, without revealing details.

The six sides - China, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Germany, plus an EU representative - have agreed to "adopt creative thinking to seek a comprehensive and long-lasting way to solve the Iran nuclear issue properly", he added.

The new round of discussion was carried out under a mechanism established by foreign ministers of the six powers in January 2006 in London, said He, adding that officials would report to their ministers after the meeting.

The meeting was expected to follow up on an incentive package proposed in 2006, which has been rejected by Iran, to discuss increasing incentives to persuade Teheran to comply with UN demands.

The Security Council has imposed three resolutions with sanctions on Iran since 2006 over the country's refusal to suspend its nuclear program, especially uranium enrichment, which can be geared for either civil or military use. Iran has said its nuclear development is strictly for generating electricity.

"China welcomes Iran to participate in the talks, and that's what we hope to happen in the future," He said in response to a question from an Iranian reporter, adding that the six powers will negotiate with Iran first after they reach agreement over the plan.

On the same day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has long maintained a hard line over the nuclear issue, said in a speech broadcast on state television that Iran was ready for negotiations on nuclear and other issues provided such talks did not violate its rights.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said last Sunday Teheran would soon unveil proposals aimed at resolving "international" and other problems, when asked about the 5+1 meeting in Shanghai.

"The proposed package will have a new orientation and I think various parties, including 5 plus 1, can take advantage of this plan," he told reporters. "We will announce the details of this package in the near future."

The meeting in the Chinese commercial hub came a week after Ahmadinejad announced his country had started to install 6,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges at its underground facility in Natanz, about twice the current number there, and is testing a device that works five times faster.

Iran has said it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment.

Hua Liming, former Chinese ambassador to Iran, said the meeting itself was of great importance, as it was the first time China hosted such a meeting.

"It reflected China's will to make contributions to the peaceful settlement of various sensitive international issues, besides the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem," said Hua.

(China Daily April 17, 2008)

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