Iran Nuclear NewsRussia and China pressed by West to agree tougher...

Russia and China pressed by West to agree tougher Iran sanctions

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ImageThe Times: The United States, Germany, France and Britain will push Russia and China at a meeting expected to be on Friday to agree to new UN sanctions against Iran. The Times

James Bone in New York

ImageThe United States, Germany, France and Britain will push Russia and China at a meeting expected to be on Friday to agree to new UN sanctions against Iran.

Britain, France and the United States all issued blunt warnings at a Security Council meeting on Thursday that Iran faced fresh sanctions for defying UN demands to halt uranium enrichment. “If it continues to refuse the slightest confidence measures, to refuse dialogue, transparency … we must draw all of the necessary conclusions and that means that we must move on to a new resolution involving sanctions,” Gérard Araud, the French ambassador, told the council. “There is no longer any reason to wait.”

Both China and Russia, which have veto power on the UN Security Council, argued for more time, however. “We need to be patient, calm and not emotional,” Vitali Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador, said. China’s representative, Zhang Yesui, added: “There is still a possibility for the diplomatic efforts of the international community to resume talks. It may require more time and patience on our part.”

Western officials say that talks this week will culminate in new sanctions, which could be passed by the Security Council. They acknowledge that the measures are unlikely to amount to the crippling sanctions that Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has threatened but contend that a new Security Council resolution passed with the backing of Russia and China will send an important message of unanimity to Iran.

“The aim of sanctions is not to bring about regime change; it’s not about destroying the Iranian economy; it’s not about making Iranians suffer,” a senior Western diplomat said. “It’s about changing the behaviour of the Iranian Government. That is why unanimity is as important as substance.”

The diplomat added: “Everyone is weighing things, as it’s clear the alternatives are not very attractive. The threat of military action is there, but it’s not an attractive alternative.”

Iran’s recent threats to cut off co- operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and build ten more enrichment plants are bolstering support for further UN sanctions.

Western diplomats perceive Moscow as more concerned than China about the strategic threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. While Russia is willing to make sacrifices to support UN sanctions, China appears reluctant to countenance any measures that will affect its interests, particularly its oil trade with Tehran.

“Traditionally, the Chinese have been able to hide behind the Russians. As the Russians become tougher, are these strategic differences going to come out into the open?

“The Chinese will not stand out alone in terms of rhetoric, but that is very different when it comes to sanctions where there are national interests at stake. If we moved into trade or hydrocarbon sanctions that may be a red line for China.”

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