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China sending lower level rep to six-power meet on Iran
China will send a lower-level representative to a meeting of six world powers on Iran's nuclear program, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.
"We are aware that the representation will be below the level of political director," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "It will be a useful meeting to have regardless of the Chinese representation."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Monday that the six powers -- veto-wielding UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- would meet over the weekend in New York to consider new sanctions against Tehran.
The United States and other western powers fear that Iran is developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of a uranium enrichment program the Islamic republic says is aimed at providing civilian nuclear energy.
Washington and the three European members of the group have been trying for months to persuade Russia and China to set aside their reluctance to impose new sanctions.
Last week, China's ambassador to the United Nations reiterated Beijing's position that it was premature to adopt sanctions against Iran, insisting that diplomacy still had a role to play in getting Tehran to the negotiating table.
"We're gonna work on this issue with our partners," said Crowley.
"We continue to engage China and other countries to convince them that the urgency of the situation requires not only additional engagement, but additional support for additional pressure, which obviously China is still working through."
The State Department's political chief Bill Burns has been in Moscow since Wednesday to prepare for Saturday's meeting.
He is scheduled to travel to Madrid Friday to meet with his counterparts from the European Union and with Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
The news that, unlike other members of the so-called P5+1, China would not send the political director of its foreign ministry comes after US Internet giant Google charged it had been hit by massive cyber attacks coming from China.
Clinton reacted to that development by saying she would seek an explanation from Beijing. The US diplomatic chief is expected to address the issue during a speech on Internet freedom next week.