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CHINA REFUSES TO CALL OFF ITS NUCLEAR DEAL WITH IRAN

Despite a plea by Secretary of State Warren Christopher that it's "dangerous," China insisted Monday it would go ahead with a nuclear deal with Iran. China's foreign minister said no international law prohibits it.

"We respect the views of the United States," Qian Qichen said at the start of a meeting with Christopher. "But what we are doing is consistent with international practice."The disagreement surfaced at the opening of an international conference on extending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States is openly bidding for China to support an indefinite extension.

But Christopher did not disguise his strong feeling about the potential deal between China and Iran, which calls for the construction of two 300-megawatt water reactors and a transfer of associated Chinese technology.

"No nation ought to go forward with nuclear cooperation with Iran," Christopher said at a joint news conference before his luncheon meeting with Qian. "It's too dangerous to do so."

He called Iran the most ardent opponent of peace in the Middle East and said it projects terror worldwide.

But despite what Christopher described as "very strong views" within the Clinton administration, Qian rejected his appeal outright.

He said the reactors would be governed by International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and added: "There is no international law, or international regulation or international agreement that prohibits such cooperation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy."

China previously has sold Iran a small research reactor and an electromagnetic isotope separation machine.