Be flexible on nuclear program: China to Iran

China does not condone any Middle Eastern country developing nuclear weapons.

Beijing: China urged Iran on Friday to show flexibility over its controversial nuclear program and warned that the use of force to resolve the issue was the last thing the Middle East needed at the moment.

The United States, Britain and France have turned up the pressure on Tehran ahead of next week`s release of a keenly awaited UN report that may offer new details about the military side of Iran`s nuclear program.

Washington and its European allies suspect Iran is developing the capability to produce atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program. Iran denies wanting atom bombs and insists its program is for generating electricity.

Russia and China have urged the UN nuclear watchdog chief to give Iran time to study and respond to allegations of possible military-linked atomic activities before he publishes the report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing that China did not condone any Middle Eastern country developing nuclear weapons.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency should adopt an impartial and objective stance and seek positive cooperation with Iran to clarify certain questions," Hong said. "Iran should also show flexibility and sincerity and have earnest cooperation with the IAEA."

The IAEA`s report is expected to unveil detailed intelligence pointing to military dimensions of Iran`s nuclear program, while stopping short of saying explicitly that Tehran is trying to build such weapons.

The United States and Israel have repeatedly hinted at the possible use of force against Iranian nuclear sites, eliciting threats of fierce retaliation from the Islamic Republic.

Hong said that would be a very bad idea.

"China opposes the use of force or the threat of the use of force in international affairs. At present, avoiding any new upheaval in the Middle East is extremely important."

China would play a "constructive role" in pushing for the peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear issue by diplomatic means, Hong added.

Russia and China have backed four rounds of UN sanctions on Iran since 2006 over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear work that could have both civilian and military uses.

But they criticised the United States and the European Union last year for taking extra unilateral steps against Iran and Moscow has signalled its opposition to any new UN Security Council sanctions.

Bureau Report

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