Tags: China | sanctions | talk | Iran

China Flip-Flops Over Iran Sanctions

Tuesday, 13 Apr 2010 10:39 PM


WASHINGTON - In a day of political flip-flops over Iran sanctions, China indicated working toward the U.S. stance on imposing them, then retreated away from the idea only to back circle and again seem to be leaning towards the possibility.

The strange day of detente during U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear summit ended with Western powers voicing hope Tuesday of imposing fresh sanctions on Iran within weeks as long-reluctant China said it was willing to work to pressure the clerical regime on its nuclear program.

As 47 nations met in Washington to draft ways to tighten controls over loose nuclear material, Barack Obama appealed against a "long drawn-out process for months" on imposing sanctions on Iran.

"I want to see us move forward boldly and quickly to send the kind of message that will allow Iran to make a different calculation," Obama told a news conference.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who along with Obama has been leading the drive on Iran, said that the United Nations should agree on sanctions "in April or May, no later" and warned: "The moment of truth is nearing."

Obama was cautious about what Chinese President Hu Jintao told him on Iran when they met on Monday, saying the Asian economic power was "obviously concerned" about the ramifications of punishing major oil producer Iran.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was hopeful China would throw its support behind a fourth round of UN sanctions against a defiant Tehran.

"China is now part of the process, even though we can't say clearly what the outcome will be," she told reporters.

China has been the most reluctant among the six major powers -- which also include Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- that are negotiating on Iran's defiant nuclear program.

But China's Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said his government has taken note that countries "have put forward some ideas" on Iran.

"We stand ready to discuss these ideas with the relevant parties," Cui told reporters in Washington.

Cui, however, denied there was any difference with China's earlier positions. China wields veto power on the UN Security Council.

Earlier Tuesday in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China backed a "dual-track strategy" of continued dialogue with Tehran while maintaining the possibility of sanctions.

"China always believes that dialogue and negotiation are the best way out for the issue. Pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve it," she said.

China's stance that sanctions were not the answer to the Iranian atomic standoff, denting Obama's hopes of sealing a deal to punish Tehran as he hosted a summit on nuclear arms.

The two-day gathering saw Obama meet Monday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and others in consultations he described as "impressive."

A top White House official said Obama and Hu agreed their delegations would work together at the United Nations on a push to impose sanctions against Iran.

"They are prepared to work with us," said Jeff Bader, Obama's top official responsible for East Asia on the National Security Council.

"The two presidents agreed the two delegations should work together on sanctions."

However China, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, later undercut hopes for a consensus when it said sanctions were not a solution.

"China always believes that dialog and negotiation are the best way out for the issue. Pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve it," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

Jiang said China backs a "dual-track strategy" -- continued dialog with Tehran while considering the possibility of sanctions if that fails to halt sensitive nuclear work.

Iran also denied any suggestion that China was now backing the US stance.

"We have a different understanding than yours of the comments made after the meeting of US and Chinese officials," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in Tehran when asked to react to US claims of a breakthrough.

Mehmanparast said foreign ministers from 15 countries would take part in a two-day nuclear disarmament conference to be held in Tehran on April 17 and 18.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not attending the summit, nor was North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il, whose country has vowed to strengthen its own atomic arsenal in defiance of international pressure.

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2010-39-13
Tuesday, 13 Apr 2010 10:39 PM
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