China has reinforced its call for diplomacy to ease tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme amid reiteration by Tehran that a deal over enriched uranium for its research reactor engaged in producing medical isotopes was now within grasp.

Speaking on Friday at a security conference in Munich, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the issue had “entered a crucial stage”.

“The parties concerned should, with the overall and long-term interests in mind, step up diplomatic efforts, stay patient and adopt a more flexible, pragmatic and proactive policy,” Xinhua quoted Mr. Yang as saying.

“The purpose is to seek a comprehensive, long-term and proper solution through dialogue and negotiations and uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and peace and stability in the Middle East [West Asia].” The Chinese position contrasted strongly with the stance adopted by some of the leading Western countries. For instance, General James Jones, U.S. National Security Adviser, has called for stringent sanctions and the need for deeper international isolation of Iran.

Mr. Yang’s observations coincided with remarks at the conference by Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki that a “final” settlement of the nuclear fuel exchange deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is not far away.

“The declaration of Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad shows that the Islamic Republic is eager to talk about it,” Iran’s state run broadcaster Press TV quoted Mr. Mottaki as saying. On Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad had said Iran had “no problem” in shipping abroad its low-enriched uranium in return, several months later, of nuclear fuel rods for the Tehran reactor. However, Mr. Mottaki said Tehran would not accept a year-long timeline to receive nuclear, after it had transferred abroad its low-enriched uranium stocks. On Saturday, Mr. Mottaki met Yukiya Amano, new IAEA chief, to work out a compromise.

Referring to Iran’s position, Mr. Yang said it would be wrong to talk about imposing more sanctions on Iran because Tehran appears open to dialogue.

“We believe that Iran has not totally shut the door” on the IAEA proposal on nuclear fuel supply, he said.

In Munich, Mr. Mottaki also held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “I hope that after today’s talk there is a chance that we will find a scheme of reloading of the research reactor in Tehran, and it will be implemented”, Mr. Lavrov told RIA Novosti.

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