Iran praises Russia, China for opposing sanctions


TEHRAN (AP) - Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman praised Russia and China Tuesday for their opposition to the U.S. drive to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program.

"I have to commend Russia and China for their position. Russia and China have shown an independent policy," Hamid Reza Asefi told a press conference. Russia and China have opposed calls by the United States, Britain and France for a resolution that would threaten sanctions against Iran if its does not stop enriching uranium - a process that produces fuel for nuclear reactors or material for atomic bombs.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this, saying its nuclear program is merely to generate electricity.

The foreign ministers of the "big five" UN Security Council members and Germany are due to meet in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday to discuss proposals intended to reward Iran if it gives up uranium enrichment and punish it if it does not.

Asefi said Tuesday his government would reject any demand by the six countries for Iran to halt enrichment.

"Definitely, we won't accept it. It's natural that we won't give up our rights," he told reporters.

Iran maintains that as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty it has the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, such as the production of reactor fuel.

However, earlier this week Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, was quoted by local newspapers as saying the country could curb its enrichment to resolve the crisis.

Asefi did not dispute the Zarif's comment, but stressed that Tehran would continue its program as planned.

"The issue of a halt (to our uranium enrichment) is not on our agenda. Iran is continuing its activities," he said.