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China cautions Bush on U.N. authority

Jiang says weapons inspectors must be given more time to carry out their task
Jiang says weapons inspectors must be given more time to carry out their task

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin has urged U.S. President George W. Bush to tread carefully and safeguard the authority of the United Nations Security Council in dealing with Iraq and North Korea, state media has reported.

The comments came in a telephone conversation between the two leaders Friday evening, the state-run People's Daily newspaper said.

Jiang told his U.S. counterpart that China was in favor of increased support for the teams of weapons inspectors operating inside Iraq.

"It is the common aspiration of the international community to safeguard the Security Council's authority when dealing with significant issues like the Iraq issue," the People's Daily paraphrased Jiang as saying.

He said the weapons inspectors had made "some progress on the whole," although he acknowledged "there still existed some problems" the paper said.

Veto powers

The U.S. military build-up in the Gulf continues
The U.S. military build-up in the Gulf continues

China, Asia's only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has expressed strong reservations about military action against Iraq.

It says more time should be given to the U.N. weapons inspection teams to carry out the task the council has set them.

As a permanent member of the council China has veto powers over resolutions.

Last week Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan said that as long as there was "the slightest hope for political settlement, we should exert our utmost to achieve that."

His comments followed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council detailing what the Bush administration says is evidence of Iraq's deception over its alleged weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea standoff

Also discussed in Friday's phone conversation between the two leaders was the continuing standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

Bush said he had sought China's diplomatic assistance in helping to resolve tensions, although he told reporters in Washington Friday that no option had yet been ruled out.

"All options are on the table, but I believe we can solve this diplomatically," he said when asked if he was prepared to use military force to resolve the issue.

For his part Jiang reiterated the Chinese position that "a nuclear-free, peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula" was the main goal of the international community.

China borders North Korea and has been extremely careful in the language its uses in relation to the ongoing crisis.

China is one of North Korea's few nominal allies, although analysts say Beijing has little actual influence over Pyongyang's actions.

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