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JOHANNESBURG, March 30 (Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki called on Thursday for a "sensible" handling of the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme to avert yet another conflict in the region.
Mbeki, whose government tried unsuccessfully to keep negotiations on the Iran issue within the U.N. nuclear agency IAEA, told parliament that referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council could ultimately lead to confrontation.
"As a government we are generally concerned about the situation in the Middle East," Mbeki said in a question-and-answer session in the Cape Town-based assembly.
"There is a lot of instability -- the Palestine-Israel problem, the Iraq problem, tensions arising about Syria and Lebanon, the situation in Afghanistan.
"It would seem to us that the most sensible thing to do is not to increase the troubled spots in the region, but to reduce them."
Mbeki's envoy, Abdul Minty, argued his country's case at a special board meeting of the of the IAEA in February but lost out to a consensus decision for a greater involvement of the Security Council in the dispute with Iran.