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Hu Urges Flexibility To Break Iran Nuclear Impasse

Chinese President Hu Jintao
BEIJING -- Chinese President Hu Jintao has urged world powers to show flexibility to resolve a prolonged stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, saying there was a rare opportunity for the resumption of talks.

Hu was meeting with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad after the Iranian leader arrived in the Chinese capital for a one-day visit to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics.

Western powers fear Iran's nuclear activities are aimed at developing atomic weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said it cannot be certain that Tehran's nuclear program is purely civilian.

Iran denies insists its nuclear programs are peaceful and that it only wants to master atomic technology in order to generate electricity.

Hu said China respected Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and called for further diplomacy, reinforcing the Communist leadership's line toward the long-festering dispute, Xinhua news agency reported.

"At present, the Iran nuclear issue is faced with a rare opportunity for the resumption of talks, and we hope all parties concerned could seize the opportunity and show flexibility, to push for a peaceful settlement of the issue," the agency quoted Hu as saying.

"China, as always, will be committed to pushing for the settlement of the issue through peaceful negotiations, and will continue to play a constructive role to this end," Hu said.

China, a permanent vote-wielding member of the UN Security Council, is among six world powers leading the diplomatic effort to pressure Iran to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for power plants, or potentially, nuclear weapons.

The Security Council has passed three rounds of sanctions already and Iran faces a possible fourth round after failing to respond to a sweetened offer of incentives by France, Britain, Germany, the United States, Russia, and China to halt its uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad told Hu that he hoped a solution "acceptable to all parties could be found," Xinhua said.

"The Iranian side is willing to keep exchanges and consultations with the Chinese side," the agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

China, a big buyer of Iranian oil, is regarded as key to breaking the diplomatic impasse, but has been reluctant to consider steps that might hurt its energy and economic ties with Tehran.

with additional RFE/RL reporting