China: Iran Has Right to Civilian Nuclear Energy, but Not the Bomb

BEIJING - China is opposed to Iran becoming a military nuclear power, but Tehran has the right to develop nuclear energy for civilian purposes, China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told visiting Ehud Olmert during their meeting in Beijing yesterday.

The Chinese premier was quoted as saying that China understands Israel's existential concerns stemming from the Iranian program, and stressed that Beijing is opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms as well as to calls to disregard the past suffering of the Jewish people.

However, Wen said that there is a "correct" way of dealing with this, and pointed to the United Nations Security Council and to independent decisions of individual countries to apply pressure on Iran.

At the start of their meeting, the Chinese premier asked Olmert to deliver a positive message to Israel: that Israel was a very close friend of China.

"I look forward to exchanging views with you, Mr. Prime Minister, on how to further promote China-Israel relations and our friendship and cooperation, as well as on the Middle East issue."

Most of the meeting was dedicated to the development of economic ties between the two countries and blocking the Iranian nuclear threat.

Today, Olmert will meet the President of China, Hu Jintao, and the talks will revolve mostly on diplomatic and strategic issues.

Prior to Olmert's visit to Beijing, China invited Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, for talks.

Wen said China told Larijani that it is inconceivable for Iran to ignore the rules and decisions of the international community, and stressed that Beijing would not accept such behavior.

"I heard many surprising and positive things regarding the Iranian issue," Olmert later told the press.

"China made it absolutely clear that it opposed an Iran with a nuclear bomb," he added.

Olmert was received with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People, the Chinese Parliament, facing Tiananmen Square.

The military band played the national anthems. During a dinner in the prime minister's honor, the Chinese orchestra played four Israeli songs, including Jerusalem of Gold.

"Every song had meaning and the Chinese thought and prepared the program," one of Olmert's aides said.

"They always tell us that we should not mention Jerusalem in diplomatic talks, because of the sensitivity of the subject, and here we are listening to Jerusalem of Gold in Beijing. This was very exciting," he added.

China's Minister of Commerce, Bo Xilai, and Prime Minister Wen, expressed great interest in Israeli Research and Development, and in water desalination and purification technology.

Wen recalled a visit he had made to a desalination plant in Ashkelon. Xilai told Olmert that for China, "water is as important as oil."

Olmert and his hosts agreed to raise the value of bilateral trade between the two countries from the current level of approximately $4 billion per year to $10 billion by 2010.