- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

TEHRAN, Iran | Iran expressed doubts Tuesday that China would back the U.S. push for new sanctions against Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

The comments came a day after Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to work with the Americans on the issue during a meeting with President Obama in Washington.

Chinese spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said China hopes all parties will step up diplomatic efforts and seek ways to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations. “China and the United States share the same overall goal on the Iranian nuclear issue,” the Chinese statement said.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that did not mean Beijing was ready to support sanctions.

Tehran doesn’t “consider the statement as approval of the U.S. stance and unfair actions,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Our interpretation is different,” Mr. Mehmanparast said, without elaborating.

The U.S. and its allies are pushing for tougher sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. The process is key in production of nuclear arms if the uranium is enriched to more than 90 percent.

Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, saying its program is only for peaceful purposes.

Mr. Obama, Mr. Hu and leaders from nearly 50 other countries assembled in Washington to recharge efforts to keep nuclear material out of terrorist hands.

Mr. Mehmanparast slammed the gathering as a “show,” saying a country that used nuclear weapons in the past “shouldn’t be hosting a summit that strives for nuclear disarmament.”

So far, Iran has enriched uranium only to 3.5 percent and says it needs to enrich uranium to 20 percent to make fuel rods for a Tehran research reactor that produces medical isotopes. In February, Tehran said it would go ahead with the 20 percent enrichment and claimed it already produced a small amount of such uranium.

A U.N.-backed plan last year offered Tehran the opportunity to get the fuel rods — which contain uranium that can no longer be used for weapons-grade material — in exchange for Iran’s stock of lower-level uranium.

Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday that Iran was ready to hand over one ton of Iran’s lower-level uranium to the U.N. nuclear watchdog in exchange for about 220 pounds of 20 percent enriched uranium.

But, Mr. Salehi said, the exchange would only be made if the International Atomic Energy Agency guards the ton somewhere inside Iran until the international community hands over the higher-enriched batch — an offer the international community is unlikely to go along with.

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