Iran Nuclear Talks

(CNN) -- China's President Hu Jintao urged Iran to take a "flexible and pragmatic" approach as it enters talks on its nuclear program Friday with the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna, China's foreign ministry said.

Hu told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that China believed in serious dialogue and cooperation as the way to ease tensions, as the pair met in Beijing Friday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Ahmadinejad said Iran would continue to pursue negotiations and maintain contact with all sides, Xinhua said.

Hu's remarks come a day after he and Russian President Vladimir Putin jointly stated that "any attempts to resolve the Iranian issue by force are unacceptable."

The closed-door meeting with Iranian negotiators at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the Austrian capital comes ahead of further international negotiations over Tehran's nuclear ambitions in 10 days' time.

Officials in Vienna are expected to continue working toward a possible inspection agreement over Iran's nuclear capabilities.

They are keen to gain access to restricted sites, amid rising concern about satellite images taken last month that showed the Iranians had demolished buildings at one site that inspectors have been especially pressing to visit.

The agency's director-general, Yukiya Amano, said last month after meeting with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili in Tehran that a deal that would allow broader inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities could come "quite soon."

However, Russia and China's vocal support for Tehran this week may give Iran more leverage in the talks with IAEA officials.

Hu and Putin, along with four Central Asian partner nations, signed a joint declaration in Beijing on Thursday at the end of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, expressing their deep concern over recent developments in Iran.

"We believe any attempts to resolve the Iranian issue by force are unacceptable," it said. "Such attempts could lead to unpredictably serious consequences, which would threaten stability and security in the region and the entire world. We call on all parties to maintain maximum restraint, and refrain from words and actions that may lead to further confrontations."

Hu and Putin also released a joint statement Wednesday in which they opposed the use of force on Iran.

"We do not approve exerting excessive pressure and implementing unilateral sanctions against Iran. We advocate actively working for peace and facilitating talks in resolving the Iran nuclear issue," they said.

The United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany -- the so-called "P5+1," a reference to Germany plus the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- will meet with Iran in Moscow for another round of talks on Iran's nuclear program June 18-19.

World powers, particularly Western nations, suspect that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Last month, during a round of talks with the P5+1 in Baghdad, Iran rejected calls to stop the high enrichment of uranium that can be used for weapons, while the international powers refused Tehran's demand for an immediate end to sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union that are crippling its economy.

Because 80% of Iran's foreign revenues are derived from oil exports, an embargo by the EU set to take effect in July will put further pressure on its economy.

Tehran threatened this year to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping lane, if sanctions were imposed on its exports of crude oil. Israel, which is believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, has said it may attack Iran to try to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Russia historically has been hesitant to support sanctions on Tehran. In November, it called a new round of sanctions "unacceptable," saying they hinder efforts to reach a diplomatic solution.


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