Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Iran nuclear issue 'a shared goal' for UK and China

David Miliband hopes to gain China's co-operation over Iran

The UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said Britain and China have "a shared goal" in resolving the issue of Iran's nuclear programme.

And Mr Miliband, who is in Beijing for talks, said the two countries were "going to work very closely together to achieve it".

His counterpart Yang Jiechi said China had become "more concerned" about Iran.

But he said tougher sanctions, favoured by Western nations, were not "a fundamental solution" to the problem.

Iran insists its enrichment programme is for civilian use, but there are concerns it is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.

'Test for all'

The US, France, the UK, Russia, China and Germany, otherwise known as the "P5 +1", are currently discussing the possibility of new economic sanctions.

China has so far opposed the measure - and as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council could block it altogether.

Speaking at a news briefing following talks with Mr Yang, Mr Miliband said dealing with Iran's nuclear programme was "a test for all of us".

We are committed to working with Britain to advance the comprehensive strategic partnership
Yang Jiechi
Chinese foreign minister

"We have a shared goal in ensuring that Iran lives by its commitments under the non-proliferation treaty, and we are going to work very closely together to achieve it," he added.

Mr Yang said: "China has become more concerned about the current situation."

He stopped short of dismissing the possibility of more sanctions, but added: "I have said before that sanctions do not provide a fundamental solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Ultimately, this issue has to be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

"We will continue to make active efforts to bring about a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue."

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas says Mr Miliband is the latest in a string of high-level visitors trying to convince Beijing to back a tougher line with Iran.

But he says China is showing little sign of yielding to the Western pressure just yet.

'Strategic partnership'

Earlier in his visit, Mr Miliband called on China to do more to improve workers' rights, property rights and free access to information.

He also said the futures of Britain and China were "linked together", and while the two countries' relationship had difficulties, they should be partners, not competitors.

Late last year, relations were strained when China ignored personal appeals from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to execute 53-year-old Briton Akmal Shaikh for drug smuggling.

There has also been a dispute over claims that China "hijacked" efforts to reach an agreement at the climate summit in Copenhagen.

But Mr Yang told reporters that relations were "developing in a positive direction", adding: "We are committed to working with Britain to advance the comprehensive strategic partnership."

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