China to send envoy to Iran, urges restraint

Thu Apr 13, 2006 3:51am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will send a top envoy on arms control to Iran and Russia in an effort to defuse Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, a ministry spokesman said on Thursday, urging restraint on all sides.

Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai would visit Iran and Russia from April 14-18, spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.

"We hope the relevant parties can exercise restraint and not take measures that will escalate the situation," Liu said.

Iran declared earlier this week it had enriched its first batch of uranium, in defiance of the United Nations and Western countries which worry its atomic research is aimed at making nuclear weapons.

Liu echoed remarks from Beijing's ambassador to the United Nations that there was still room for diplomacy to resolve the standoff but said China was worried about the nuclear crisis.

"We are concerned about Iran's relevant announcements and we are worried about possible developments of the situation," he said.

Western countries have been pushing the U.N. Security Council to make its demands that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment binding under international law.

But China and Russia fear that could later lead to sanctions -- something they have traditionally opposed.