China declared its support yesterday for a European plan to offer Iran sophisticated nuclear technology if it scraps uranium enrichment work that Western countries suspect is part of a quest for atomic bombs.
"China approves of the Europeans' important stance of striving to solve the Iran nuclear issue through peaceful negotiation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said of the proposal outlined in Brussels on Monday.
But Iran again insisted that it would pursue enrichment, in defiance of UN demands that it desist.
"Iran's decision to preserve this right [to enrichment] is definite and irreversible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement.
He said no proposal should violate what he said was a right to enrichment enshrined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The EU, with cautious US backing, plans to offer Iran more incentives to halt atomic work, while backing a UN resolution authorizing sanctions if it refuses.
Russia said it shared China's opposition to any Security Council measure penalizing Iran or legitimizing military action.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday the EU could share the most sophisticated civilian nuclear technology with Iran if it stopped enriching uranium on its soil.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested that Iran should react positively to the EU proposal and said all sides should try actively to restart negotiations.
The EU plan should "promote the goal of non-proliferation and take into account the reasonable concerns of Iran", he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, visiting Beijing, said negotiation was the key to resolving the dispute.
"We should not isolate Iran nor put pressure on Iran," he said after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星).
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Iran's nuclear program will be "extensively discussed" when NAM foreign ministers gather in Kuala Lumpur from May 27 to prepare for a leaders' summit later this year.
"We hope the crisis Iran is facing will not reach a situation where there will be military conflict because the world does not need another conflict," he was quoted as saying in the Star daily.
Malaysia is currently chairing the NAM, which includes Iran amongst its members.
"We do believe that there is nothing wrong for any country to look at alternative sources of energy, including nuclear power, as long as it is intended for peaceful purposes," Syed Hamid said.