AFP: Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Iran Tuesday for talks over its controversial nuclear drive, with Beijing urging Tehran to be flexible but still wary of Western pressure for sanctions. TEHRAN (AFP) Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Iran Tuesday for talks over its controversial nuclear drive, with Beijing urging Tehran to be flexible but still wary of Western pressure for sanctions.
His visit comes at a critical time in the standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme, with veto-wielding UN Security Council permanent members like China discussing whether to impose further sanctions against Tehran.
Yang was due to meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, state news agency IRNA reported.
China has been reluctant to support US pressure for a third sanctions resolution against Tehran but has also been urging the Islamic republic to show flexibility in the crisis.
“We urge Iran to respond to the concerns of the international community and take a more flexible stance so as to promote a resolution on the issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said ahead of the visit.
Liu said more sanctions would likely be counterproductive.
“We believe that all parties should show patience and sincerity over this issue, while any sanctions, particular unilateral sanctions, will do no good,” he said.
The United States has expressed impatience with the refusal of China and Russia to back the calls for further sanctions to punish Tehran for its refusal to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment work.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China — plus Germany met in London on Friday to discuss strengthened sanctions against Iran under a third UN resolution.
“We think that at this point we really need to be making more progress toward that resolution and that we need to make that diplomacy much more rigorous,” complained State Department spokesman Tom Casey.
“And we’re hoping to see more effort taken on the part of particularly the Chinese, and the Russians as well,” he added.
The United States and its Western allies fear Iran will use enrichment to make a nuclear bomb. But Iran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and Moscow and Beijing have never backed the Western claims.
Yang’s visit comes two weeks after a lightening trip to Tehran by his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who has echoed Beijing’s suspicions over imposing further sanctions against Iran.
Little information filtered out over the contents of his talks with Iranian leaders but state media said he delivered a message to Ahmadinejad from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, US undersecretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, Stuart Levey, was in Beijing to discuss alleged Iranian proliferation activities.
The United States has never ruled out military action to bring Tehran to heel but the head of US Central Command Admiral William Fallon said an attack was not “in the offing”.