G-8 nations press Iran sanctions drive
Top diplomats from the world's leading economies are ramping up pressure on Iran to prove its nuclear ambitions are peaceful, renewing calls for the country to be hit with new international sanctions if it fails to comply.
In meetings outside the Canadian capital yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her fellow foreign ministers from the Group of Eight main industrialized nations will warn Iran again it faces fresh penalties if it doesn't come clean on its nuclear program.
But with Iran refusing to comply, their message will be largely directed at a country not represented at the talks here: China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council that is not a member of the exclusive G-8 club.
Support from China, a vocal opponent of sanctions, is critical as it wields veto power on the council. Until recently, it had balked at the mere suggestion of taking additional punitive steps against Iran. That, Hillary suggested, may now be changing.
In an interview with Canadian television on Monday, Hillary said China shared the view of the US, its European allies and Russia that "a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable."
"I think as the weeks go forward and we begin the hard work of trying to come up with a Security Council resolution, China will be involved, they will be making their suggestions," she said.
Publicly, China reiterated its stance that the countries should seek a solution through negotiations, not new sanctions.
"We hope relevant parties could fully show their flexibility and make further efforts toward a proper resolution of this issue through diplomatic means," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday at a regular news briefing.
China opposes nuclear weapons for Iran, but said the country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Iran is already under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions and China had been holding up consideration of a fourth. But last week it softened its position in a conference call among senior officials from the six nations working most closely on the matter, according to diplomats.
A senior US official told reporters travelling with Hillary that the Chinese "have said now that they will engage on the elements of a sanctions resolution." The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing diplomatic negotiation.
In Washington, meanwhile, President Barack Obama met Monday with China's incoming ambassador to the United States. The White House said Obama stressed to the envoy the need for the two countries "to work together and with the international community on critical global issues, including non-proliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth."
Hillary and other Obama administration officials have said they want the new sanctions to target IranTian companies and government elements, like the country's Revolutionary Guard Corps, and not the Iranian people. US diplomats and their colleagues have been discussing various options for months, but until now China had stayed out of the conversation.