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Originally published Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 4:59 AM

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Iran urges China to resist sanctions pressure

Iran on Tuesday urged China to resist pressure by the United States and its allies for new sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran —

Iran on Tuesday urged China to resist pressure by the United States and its allies for new sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

Washington and other Western powers are seeking a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or a warhead.

China, which has extensive trade ties with Iran, traditionally opposes sanctions but went along with three earlier rounds of limited sanctions.

"We are hopeful that China will not be affected by other's demands and will have its own independent policy. We hope such independent, powerful countries will block bullying powers," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday.

China and Russia have not directly responded on the push for a fourth round of sanctions, but they have emphasized the need for negotiations. Last week, China's deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin said Beijing feels the Iranian nuclear issue should be dealth with through "the dual-track strategy" of diplomatic engagement and pressure through sanctions.

Separately, Iran said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Afghanistan on Wednesday, the second visit by the Iranian president since he came to power in 2005.

Tuesday's announcement coincided with a visit to the Afghan city of Kandahar by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates has accused Tehran of "playing a double game" in Afghanistan by trying to woo the Afghan government and undermining U.S. and NATO efforts by helping the Taliban.

Mehmanparast told reporters that "God willing, Ahmadinejad will go to Afghanistan on Wednesday."

Tehran says it supports the Afghan government and denies allegations that it helps the Taliban.

Iran also lashed out at criticism by the top American commander in the Middle East, Gen. David Petraeus, who earlier this week said Iran had gone from being a "theocracy to a thugocracy" in its crackdown on a reform movement following last year's elections.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani on Tuesday called Petraeus a "desperate commander" who is worried about "public hatred against the U.S. in the region."

"The government of hooligans is the United States murderous administration that has killed thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians," Larijani said during an open session of Iran's parliament that was broadcast live on the state radio.

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