AP: China is blocking high-level talks about imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, apparently in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, according to U.S. officials and diplomats briefed on the matter.
The Associated Press
By MATTHEW LEE
WASHINGTON (AP) — China is blocking high-level talks about imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, apparently in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, according to U.S. officials and diplomats briefed on the matter.
The Bush administration has been trying for more than a week to arrange a conference call among senior officials from the six nations negotiating with Iran. But they have so far been stymied by China's refusal to commit, they said on Thursday.
The officials and diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing internal deliberations between the United States and its negotiating partners: the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia — along with Germany.
The call has been expected since Iran's top nuclear envoy wrote a letter to the six countries on Oct. 6 complaining about the attitude of the West in the talks.
The group discussion is the next step in a slow-moving pressure campaign designed to persuade Iran to give up objectionable parts of its nuclear program. Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapon.
The Chinese have not explained why they are balking at the conference call, but diplomats said they assume it is related to the Bush administration's Oct. 3 announcement that it will sell up to $6.5 billion in advanced weaponry to Taiwan.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and is vehemently opposed to such sales. The announcement from Washington prompted a furious response from Beijing, which canceled several upcoming military exchanges with the United States. U.S. officials have defended the sales and called China's response "unfortunate."
At the time, U.S. officials said they did not expect the Chinese moves to extend beyond bilateral cooperation with the United States. China told the U.S. that it would continue to play active roles in efforts over both Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs. China has not stopped cooperating in six-nation talks to get North Korea to abandon nuclear arms.
However, its stalling on the Iran conference call has raised concerns in Washington and European capitals, where officials want urgent consultations on how to move ahead with the Iranians. Iran is defying international demands to halt suspect nuclear activity and refused to accept incentives it has been offered to stop.
Iran is currently under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions and the United States and Europe want to impose a fourth round despite resistance from China and Russia.
Before the Taiwan arms sale was announced, the biggest hurdle to discussions on new Iran sanctions was Russia, which, angered by U.S. and European criticism of its invasion of Georgia, thwarted a foreign ministers' meeting on the subject during the U.N. General Assembly late last month.
Russia eventually agreed to a new Security Council resolution that reaffirmed previous U.N. sanctions on Iran but did not add any new penalties.