China's U.N. envoy expressed caution Monday about imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, but dismissed U.S. accusations that Beijing was dragging its feet on a new resolution against Tehran.
Ambassador Wang Guangya also disputed a report that planned talks Monday between six nations working to resolve the Iran nuclear impasse were postponed because China had refused to attend. He said China asked for the delay because its political director was just appointed ambassador to India and there is a two-week period for public approval of his replacement.
China will be ready for the talks in early December, though it remained to be seen whether the date would be convenient for the other five countries - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Germany, Wang said.
He also said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was wrong when he said last week that "there has been dragging of feet by the Chinese" on a new resolution.
"It is not fair for the United States to accuse China," he told The Associated Press .
He said the United States should not forget that two previous Security Council resolutions against Iran were meant to "reinforce the role" of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Khalilzad warned last week that China would be responsible if diplomatic solutions fail to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying Washington expects and will seek Beijing's cooperation for new sanctions.
The U.S. ambassador's comments came shortly after the release of a much-anticipated IAEA report that found Tehran was generally truthful about aspects of its nuclear history. But the agency said it still could not rule out that Iran had a secret weapons program because of restrictions the country placed on its inspectors two years ago.
The IAEA also reported that Iran continued to defy the Security Council's demand to suspend uranium enrichment, a possible pathway to nuclear weapons. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Monday he hoped to meet with Iranian nuclear negotiators this week before reporting to the council on Iran's compliance with its demand to halt enrichment.
Iran maintains that its program is purely for generating energy, but Western nations fear it is a cover for developing weapons.
Wang said China was still studying the IAEA report, but he called it "factual and objective." It shows Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, but not with the council's demand to suspend enrichment, he said.
The U.S., Britain and France, have been pressing for a new round of sanctions, but China and Russia have repeatedly voiced opposition to a new resolution. All five countries have veto power at the Security Council.
"Already there are two sanctions resolutions, and to talk about more sanctions, we have to be careful," Wang said. "Especially for China, and some others, we made it clear from the beginning that sanctions should not hurt the Iranian people's daily lives."