Merkel pushes China on Iran
BEIJING / VIENNA
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) inspects a guard of honor accompanied by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during an official welcoming ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. REUTERS photoGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel urged China yesterday to use its influence to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program.
Merkel, who is expected to make the case for tighter sanctions on Iran originally proposed by the United States and designed to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, said she had already had “long discussions” with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao over sanctions against Iran.
“If we talk about the European sanctions against Iran, the question is how China can make better use of its influence to make Iran understand that the world must not have another power with nuclear weapons,” Merkel told an audience at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She added that she hoped the U.N. Security Council would be able to pass a unanimous resolution on the matter.
The U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Dec. 31 when President Barack Obama approved new laws imposing new sanctions on transactions involving Iran’s central bank. The European Union last week imposed a ban on the import, purchase or transport of Iranian oil. A diplomatic source said the German chancellor would also call on Beijing not to take advantage of Europe’s ban on Iranian oil to boost its own imports of the resource.
China has long refused to support sanctions on Iran, although Wen said last month that Beijing “adamantly opposes” Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Islamic republic, China’s third-largest source of foreign oil, has said its nuclear program is for civilian use. Merkel could urge Beijing to further cut its crude imports from Iran, a German source said earlier, but that is likely to go unheeded.
New IAEA trip this month
Related to its disputed program, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Feb. 1 that it would hold new talks in Tehran this month, as its chief inspector returned from Iran warning there was “still a lot of work to do.” The watchdog said in a statement that another meeting would take place in Tehran from Feb. 21 to 22, adding that it was committed to “intensifying dialogue.”
Chief U.N. nuclear inspector Herman Nackaerts told reporters upon his return from a three-day trip to Tehran that his six-member team had had a “good” visit. The trip, which according to Tehran did not take in any atomic sites, was organized in the wake of a damning IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear ambitions issued in November.
“We had three days of intensive discussions about all our priorities. We are committed to resolving all the outstanding issues and the Iranians said they are committed too,” Nackaerts said at Vienna airport. “But of course there is still a lot of work to be done, and so we have planned another trip in the very near future.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the Fars news agency that the IAEA talks were “good” and that it was agreed to continue them in the future.
Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.