China's FM to Visit Iran and Discuss Nuclear Issue
BEIJING Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, deeply involved in efforts to end the North Korean nuclear standoff, will visit Iran later this week and discuss the Islamic republic's own nuclear crisis.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear bombs. It wants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report it at a Nov. 25 meeting to the U.N. Security Council for defying the watchdog's demands to halt uranium enrichment.
"At present, Iran's nuclear issue is an issue of concern to the whole international society," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a news conference on Thursday upon announcing Li's Nov. 6-7 visit.
"During meetings with Iran's leaders, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will raise this (nuclear) issue. We hope this issue can be solved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Zhang said without elaborating.
China is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with the United States, Russia, France, and Britain.
Iran says its programs are peaceful and that it has the right to enrich uranium, which can be used in nuclear power stations or to make weapons.
The United States has sanctioned Chinese firms for selling sensitive missile technology to Iran. China and Iran deny the charges.
Li's visit also comes after China's state oil giant Sinopec Group signed a US$70 billion oilfield development and liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreement with Iran, China's biggest energy deal with the No. 2 OPEC producer, officials said last month.
Under a memorandum of understanding, Sinopec will buy 250 million tons of LNG over 30 years from Iran and develop the giant Yadavaran oilfield.
Closer to home, China has played host to several rounds of multiparty talks aimed at ending the crisis over North Korea's nuclear programs.
Iran and North Korea were branded part of an "axis of evil" along with pre-war Iraq by U.S. President George W. Bush.