China: Give Diplomacy a Chance With Iran

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, pleading for more diplomacy, urged the international community Saturday not to threaten Iran with economic and other sanctions to resolve the standoff over its nuclear enrichment program.

Wen said diplomacy is a "long process" and added that "to mount pressure or impose sanctions will not necessarily bring about a peaceful solution" to the controversy over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"It is our hope that the international community ... will exercise caution on this matter and continue to work for a peaceful solution," he said after a summit meeting with EU officials.

At the summit, Wen urged the EU to lift its ban on arms sales to Beijing — an issue that hobbled relations between Europe and China.

For its part, the EU "recognized the importance of this issue" and agreed to continue work on completing a European code of conduct in arms trade, according to a summit statement issued after the talks.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU presidency, Wen said China wants to see the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions to be resolved peacefully.

He said this would inevitably require time and urged Iran "to make constructive steps" to resolve the dispute. "Our purpose is that the nuclear issue of Iran will be settled peacefully."

He spoke as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Vienna about Tehran's defiance of international demands that it give up uranium enrichment.

The permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia — plus Germany have offered Iran economic incentives that have, however, failed to persuade Tehran from enriching uranium. Iran has ignored an Aug. 31 U.N. Security Council deadline to suspend enrichment and faces a variety of economic and other sanctions.

The EU and China, meanwhile, agreed to step up cooperation in nonproliferation and disarmament issues and "expressed their grave concern over (North Korea's) recent multiple launch of missiles," said the final statement.

The two sides called for an early resumption of six-nation talks designed to resolve North Korea's standoff with its neighbors over its nuclear arms ambitions.

In those talks, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program. North Korea has refused to negotiate since November to protest a U.S. crackdown on Pyongyang's assets abroad for alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting.

Wen met with Vanhanen and senior EU officials. Earlier, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun met with the EU separately. The two leaders were in Helsinki for a two-day 38-nation Europe-Asia summit opening Sunday.

The European arms ban has been a sticking point in the EU's relations with Beijing and stems from China's questionable human rights issue.

It was imposed after China's 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. Beijing has lobbied repeatedly for lifting the ban, calling it a "Cold War relic." France is in favor, but others in the 25-nation EU have failed to reach agreement.

At the post-summit news conference, Wen said every country struggles with human rights, but argued that China has made significant progress in "protecting the human rights of Chinese people."

"No country can say they can resolve all the issues related to human rights perfectly," Wen said.

He objected to the EU's practice of linking "economic and trade issues with the so-called human rights issues. China attaches great importance to the issue of human rights and we identified human rights as the basic rights of the Chinese people."