01/26/2006, 00.00
CHINA – IRAN
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Tehran seeking help from Russia and China to avoid sanctions over nuclear programmes

Iranian government envoy in Beijing today expresses qualified support for a plan that would see Iranian uranium enriched on Russian territory. China backs the plan. On the eve of a meeting with the EU3 in London, the United States is pressuring India to back efforts to address concerns over Iran's nuclear programme in the UN Security Council.

Beijing (AsiaNews /Agencies) – Iran is seeking Russian and Chinese support to stop efforts to address concerns over its nuclear programme in the UN Security Council. Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, arrived today in Beijing from Moscow, where he expressed qualified support for a plan to have Iranian uranium enriched on Russian territory. The Iranian embassy in Beijing confirmed Mr Larijani's visit in Beijing, but in a laconic statement said: "He will meet with high-ranking officials to discuss mutual cooperation".

Kong Quan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that China opposed sanctions against Iran. "We think the Russian proposal is a good attempt to break this stalemate," he noted.

Tehran's decision to restart its uranium enrichment programme caused a backlash in the West, where many fear the Islamic Republic might build its own nuclear bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), scheduled to meet on February 2, might refer Iran to the Security Council, which can impose sanctions against Tehran.

The European Union and the United States are trying to convince both Russia and China—who are Iran's strategic partners and permanent Security Council members—to take a tough stance against Iran's nuclear ambitions. But with important vested interests in Iranian oil and gas, China has hitherto backed negotiations.

Larjiani's visit to Beijing comes ahead of the London meeting between Great Britain, France, Germany (the EU3), the United States, Russia and China to discuss the IAEA February 2 meeting.

In the meantime, the US is upping its pressures. On Tuesday, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick warned Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that "in their own interests for energy security, they need to steer this in another direction".

In India, US Ambassador David Mulford said that if India did not back the IAEA resolution "the effect on members of the US Congress with regard to [India-US] civil nuclear initiative will be devastating".

"I think the Congress will simply stop considering the matter," he said. And "India will have to make a determination on what its national interests are."

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