(photo credit: Associated Press)
MUNICH - China's foreign minister on Friday urged the world to be patient and keep up diplomatic efforts with Iran to try and find a solution to Teheran's nuclear ambitions.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a gathering of the world's top defense officials that negotiations with Iran's government 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," he said. "The purpose is to seek a comprehensive, long-term and proper solution through dialogue and negotiations."
The comments at the Munich Security Conference, in its 46th year, came after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki decided to join the meeting at the last minute.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week suggested he would at last agree to export a significant amount of uranium for processing. The UN is considering a fourth round of sanctions against the country for failing to rein in its nuclear ambitions.
Iran's moves appeared timed in part to defuse pressure by the US, Britain and France for more sanctions against Iran. UN Security Council members China and Russia are not convinced.
Mottaki said in a late-night session Friday that more talks were needed on the timing of the exchange of uranium for processing, the place where it would be done and to determine the fuel that Iran needs.
"Iran is serious and we have shown it at the highest levels," Mottaki said. "We have created the conducive ground for such an exchange in the not-so-distant future. I think we are approaching a final agreement that can be accepted by all parties."
Earlier, Yang called for another round of talks involving the Security Council and Germany with the hope that a "mutually acceptable proposal" can be reached with Iran.
But US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made it clear the Obama administration's position has not changed.
She said the Iranian government has been unclear in its intentions regarding the possibility of accepting international urgings to negotiate on the nuclear matter.
"The fact is we haven't really seen much in the way of response" from Iran, she told reporters in Washington. "Sometimes we see response from a part of the government that is then retracted from another part of the government."
She reiterated that the focus is now on sanctions.
"We have, in good faith, engaged in diplomacy with the Iranians," she said. "We've always had a two-track process, and we think it is important that we move now toward looking at what pressure, what sanctions, can be brought to bear on the Iranians. We're going to continue to reach out to all of our colleagues in this effort, including, of course, China."
Senior representatives of the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany held a 90-minute conference call on Friday to discuss the prospect for negotiations with Iran as well as the outlook for imposing additional sanctions, but no decisions were made, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Iran now possesses more than enough enriched uranium for at least one
nuclear warhead and the UN Security Council has demanded the Islamic
Republic freeze its enrichment program. An agreement worked out by the
International Atomic Energy Agency would delay Tehran's ability to make
such a weapon by requiring the country to export 70 percent of its
uranium stock and then wait for up to a year for it to be processed and
returned as fuel rods for a research reactor.
In Berlin on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and German
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle — both of whom are attending the
Munich conference — said Iran must answer remaining questions about the
nature of its nuclear program.
They stressed that they remained ready to continue negotiations toward
a diplomatic solution. Westerwelle warned, however, that the
international community's patience was "not infinite."
Lavrov said he planned to meet Mottaki in Munich and urge him to submit information on Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA.
"Under certain circumstances, if there is no other possible solution,
then we will have to discuss it in the Security Council," Lavrov told