US faces diplomatic slog to get China to back sanctions against Iran

US faces diplomatic slog to get China to back sanctions against Iran
# 10 February 2010 18:29 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Poor state of US-Chinese relations hinders Barack Obama’s push for sanctions over Tehran’s uranium production, APA reports quoting web-page.
The US was today spearheading a diplomatic campaign to overcome Chinese opposition to further sanctions aimed at Iran and its Revolutionary Guards in a renewed push following Tehran’s decision to produce uranium almost six times more enriched than its existing stockpile.
Barack Obama said yesterday that his administration was "developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them [Iran] how isolated they are from the international community as a whole".
Those sanctions will target a wide range of business interests belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which is accused of running a covert weapons programme behind the front of a civilian nuclear industry, as well as a missile development programme.
To help convince Beijing of the need to act, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is due to fly to Qatar and Saudi Arabia this weekend, in part to discuss assurances the Gulf States could give China that its oil and gas needs would be met during the sanctions period.
Tehran said yesterday it had begun making 20% enriched uranium, with the aim of producing medical isotopes. Western officials described the move as a new act of defiance of UN resolutions that would bring Iran significantly closer to the capacity to make a nuclear bomb.
Obama said he expected UN negotiations to move quickly. But European diplomats warned that those talks would be hindered by Chinese resistance to new punitive measures against Iran. "We think it is going to be slow going," said one, pointing to the poor state of US-Chinese relations.
Beijing is furious with Washington over its recent sale of more than $6bn (£3.8bn) in arms to Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway region. It is also irritated by Obama’s decision to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Even before the recent dip in bilateral ties, China was reluctant to endorse sanctions which it described as ineffective and damaging to its extensive economic ties to Iran.
A Foreign Office official said the potential crisis caused by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, including the prospect of Israeli military action, would not be in China’s long-term interests. "You would think China would take the long view of its interests," the official said. "On this, I am not sure it is doing that."
Russia, which had taken the lead in resisting sanctions until last year, signaled it would back punitive measures this time. "Iran says it doesn’t want to have nuclear weapons. But its actions, including its decision to enrich uranium to 20%, have raised doubts among other nations, and these doubts are quite well-founded," Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, said.
Iran’s decision to make 20% enriched uranium follows the collapse of a deal, agreed in principle last year, by which Russia would carry out the enrichment and France would turn the processed uranium into fuel rods.
The agreement broke down because Iran was not prepared to wait between the export of its uranium for processing and the receipt of the fuel rods. Negotiators for three other parties to the deal, the US, France and Russia, insisted on the time gap to reduce the size of Iran’s uranium stockpile, for the time it took the uranium to be enriched and made into rods.
The percentage degree of uranium enrichment is a measure of the concentration of the fissile isotope, U-235. At the level of 90% enrichment and above the uranium can be used to make a nuclear bomb. Owing to the nature of the enrichment process, in which uranium hexafluoride gas is fed into linked arrays of spinning centrifuges, it takes considerably less effort to turn 20% enriched uranium into 90%, than it takes to make 20% uranium from the current enrichment level of 3.5%.

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