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China urges Iran flexibility, but opposes force

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:20 PM EDT, Fri November 4, 2011
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei gestures at a press briefing in Beijing on November 30, 2010.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei gestures at a press briefing in Beijing on November 30, 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Talk of force against Iran surfaces in the media
  • China backs "dialogue and cooperation"
  • China is a permanent U.N. Security Council member

Beijing (CNN) -- China's Foreign Ministry weighed in on the widespread anxiety over Iran's nuclear program on Friday, urging Iran to be flexible with the U.N. nuclear agency but staunchly deploring force amid talk of strikes against the country.

Hong Lei, the ministry spokesman, made the comments, state-run news agency Xinhua said on Friday. They come ahead of a report on Iran's nuclear program expected to be released next week by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"As a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran should fulfill the relevant international obligations," Hong told reporters.

The report is expected to focus specifically on research and development that Tehran may have carried out that would help it build a nuclear warhead. Iran said it is developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes but Western powers have long asserted that Iran aspires to build nuclear weapons.

In recent days, there has been widespread talk in the Israeli media about the possibility of military strikes on Iran. The daily newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was lobbying members of his Cabinet to back a military strike against Iran. On that same day, the Israeli military tested a new rocket propulsion system.

Britain's Guardian daily newspaper said that country's armed forces "are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme."

It reported that the Defence Ministry thinks the United States "may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government."

China's stance is an important element in the diplomatic focus on the nuclear issue because of China's permanent U.N. Security Council membership. Even though China has supported some sanctions on Iran over the years, Beijing and Russia have not been as hard-line toward the Islamic republic as the other members of the Security Council -- the United States, Britain and France.

Hong said disagreements with Iran should be resolved through "dialogue and cooperation," Xinhua reported.

"The IAEA should positively clarify relevant problems by cooperating with Iran in an impartial and objective manner" and "Iran should be flexible and sincere when cooperating with the IAEA," Xinhua reported, citing Hong.

China warns against the use of force but will promote "dialogue and cooperation and play a constructive role" in dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.

"It is extremely important to avoid new turmoil in the Middle East" and "a peaceful settlement is the common benefit for both the Middle East and international society," Hong said, according to Xinhua.

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