China said on Tuesday that more dialogue, not sanctions, is needed to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran announced on Sunday that it plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment facilities. That brought quick condemnation from officials in Europe and the U.S., which has been pressing China to take a stronger stand on the issue.
A China Foreign Ministry spokesman told a regular news conference on Tuesday that sanctions “are not the goal” of new U.N. pressure on Iran.
“We should properly resolve this issue through dialogue,” spokesman Qin Gang, said. “All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”
The U.N.’s nuclear agency on Friday passed a resolution demanding that Iran halt all enrichment activities - a demand from the U.S., Russia, China and three other powers. The support of China and Russia was key, as Moscow and Beijing have traditionally either prevented new U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities or watered down their potency.
Predicting China’s actions on the issue has not been easy. The country has strong and growing commercial and investment ties to Iran.
U.S. and European officials have warned that Iran risks sinking ever deeper into isolation with Sunday’s announcement, but Iran has said it felt forced to move forward with the enrichment plans after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s resolution.
Enrichment can be used to produce material needed for atomic weapons as well as fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran insists it only wants the latter.
The IAEA resolution criticized Iran for defying a U.N. Security Council ban on uranium enrichment, censured Iran for secretly building a uranium enrichment facility and demanded that it immediately suspend further construction.
In Tehran, a foreign ministry spokesman said Iran would send letters of complaint to Russia and China for voting in favour of censuring Iran.
“We have serious complaints about the actions Russia and China took regarding Iran’s nuclear rights,” said the spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast.
However, he said “no change will be applied to the strategic relations” with Moscow and Beijing, both of which are active in Iran’s energy sector.
“The letters to those who tried to incorrectly infringe on our nuclear rights will explain our reasons why their action was incorrect,” he said.