Hillary Clinton courts China’s support for sanctions against Iran
The proposed sanctions, aimed at Iranian financial institutions and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, will be circulated among Security Council member countries as early as today after strong indications that Russian and Chinese opposition is fading. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, held talks with her counterparts from both countries in London this week, urging them to recognise that their efforts at negotiating a halt to Iran’s nuclear programme had failed.
Mrs Clinton said that the world had “little choice but to apply further pressure” after a year of fruitless negotiations over what Western and Arab governments believe to be a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
“Iran has provided a continuous stream of threats to intensify its violation of international nuclear norms,” she told reporters at the conclusion of yesterday’s Afghanistan conference, where she met other foreign ministers. “Iran’s approach leaves us with little choice than to work with our partners to apply greater pressure in the hope that it will cause Iran to reconsider its rejection of diplomatic efforts.”
Earlier, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that Moscow’s patience with Tehran was running out. “It is clear that one can’t wait forever, and our partners are already talking about the need to discuss further measures in the UN Security Council,” he said.
Hopes now appear to rest on convincing China to abstain from a vote on sanctions rather than using its veto in favour of Iran. China relies on Iran for vast oil imports and is the Islamic Republic’s most important trading partner.
The Chinese Foreign Minister told reporters that Beijing was still pinning its hopes on dialogue but did not explicitly rule out further sanctions as it did at the beginning of the month when it took over chairmanship of the Security Council. Mrs Clinton said that her meetings with the Chinese had been “very positive” and appeared to soften her criticism of China over internet censorship, suggesting that Washington was still courting its support.
Mrs Clinton was accompanied to London by senior State Department and Treasury officials involved in drawing up the sanctions list with officials from the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as those from Germany and other countries who might join an Iran “sanctions coalition” if a council vote fails. Washington has also suggested that tightening current sanctions could exert pressure on Iran without the need for a new vote.
The so-called E3 plus 3 — the US, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany — met Iranian officials in Geneva in October in what was considered a breakthrough for President Obama’s policy of reaching out to Iran. But Tehran’s embattled regime has since rolled back its early co-operation, including an agreement on a Franco-Russian deal to swap stocks of enriched uranium — a decision that may have cost it Moscow’s backing.
While pressing on at the United Nations, Washington is preparing sanctions of its own. Last night the US Senate approved a Bill put forward by the Obama Administration that seeks to punish companies exporting petrol or oil-refining technology to Iran.
The Senate legislation will now have to be reconciled with a version passed by the Lower House before becoming law.