G-8 Nations press Iran sanctions drive

2010-03-30 12:34

Top diplomats from the world’s leading economies are ramping up

pressure on Iran to prove its nuclear ambitions are peaceful by renewing calls

for the country to be hit with new international sanctions if it fails to

comply.

In meetings outside the Canadian capital today, U.S. Secretary of

State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her fellow foreign ministers from the Group of

Eight main industrialised nations will warn Iran again that it faces fresh

penalties if it doesn’t come clean on its nuclear program.

But with Iran refusing to comply, their message will largely be

directed at a country not represented at the talks.

China, a permanent member of the U.N. 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.

But, until recently, it had balked at the mere suggestion of taking

additional punitive steps against Iran. That, Clinton suggested, is now

changing.

In an interview with Canadian television yesterday, Clinton said

China shared the view of the U.S., 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.

Iran is already under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions

and China had been holding up consideration of a fourth, saying diplomacy must

be given more time to work.

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 U.S. official told reporters travelling with Clinton 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, the White House said President Barack

Obama met yesterday with China’s incoming ambassador to the United States.

It said Obama had stressed to the envoy the need for the two

countries “to work together and with the international community on critical

global issues including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced

global growth.”

Clinton and other Obama administration officials have said they

want the new sanctions to target Iranian companies and government elements like

the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and not the Iranian people.

To that end, U.S. diplomats and their colleagues have been

discussing various options for months but until now China had stayed out of the

conversation.

Clinton did not address the specifics of any contribution that

China might make but said she believed an agreement on new sanctions could be

reached in the council.

Russia, another veto-wielding member generally opposed to

sanctions, has said it is open to fresh penalties.

“We’re just going to have to, as in any effort, we’re going to have

to try to come to some consensus and we’re in the middle of that process,”

Clinton said after answering flatly “no” when asked if the world would have to

start living with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful means only. But

Western powers believe the country is working to produce a nuclear weapon, as

Iranian officials have refused demands to come clean about their

intentions.

Iran will be the major topic of conversation at the G-8 meetings in

Canada involving Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France,

Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

They will also look at nuclear arms control in general ahead of a

summit of world leaders on the issue to be hosted next month by Obama in

Washington.

But the ministers will also tackle topics such as terrorism in the

Sahel region of North Africa along with Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and

Pakistan.


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