Israeli foreign minister discusses Iran in Beijing

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2012 8:49 AM
Israeli foreign minister discusses Iran in Beijing

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he told Chinese leaders Friday that Iran poses the gravest danger to world peace and stability, although it was unclear whether he'd won any stronger support for pressure on Tehran.

China is one of five permanent veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and has generally sided with Russia in arguing against tougher action to force Iran into greater openness over its nuclear program.

Lieberman said he told Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that Israel hopes negotiations and sanctions can resolve concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions. But he said Israel reserved the right to defend itself if such efforts failed and would not take any options off the table.

"It's clear that Iran is the biggest threat not only to Israel, but to the entire world, including all of the Middle East," Lieberman said.

Israel, the U.S. and other Western countries believe Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing atomic weapons, but Tehran insists it is solely for peaceful electricity generation.

Lieberman said China is a key player in diplomatic efforts to push Tehran to be more open about the program but would not comment on the content of Friday's talks or say if Israel is satisfied with China's position on Iran.

China calls on Iran to cooperate with U.N. nuclear inspectors and has agreed to previous rounds of sanctions. But Beijing has opposed U.S. unilateral measures to isolate Iran economically, and says the way to proceed is through talks, not by ratcheting up pressure.

Lieberman's visit is part of commemorations of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the sides, whose relations now include extensive cooperation in science and high-tech industries, as well as military technology.

China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi and Yang calling for even stronger ties as well as greater efforts toward a negotiated settlement between Israel, the Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors. Xinhua's reports did not mention Iran.