Obama presses Russia, China on Iran sanctions

Obama presses Russia, China on Iran sanctions

Obama presses Russia, China on Iran sanctions

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) meets with United States President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the APEC summit. AFP photo

Neither Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nor Chinese President Hu Jintao publicly echoed U.S. President Barack Obama’s push for solidarity over renewed concerns on Iran as Obama met separately on Nov.12 with each leader on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim economic summit.

During the meetings with Hu and Medvedev, Obama raised a new report from the U.N. atomic agency. The report asserted in the strongest terms to date that Iran is conducting secret work to develop nuclear arms. Russia and China remain a roadblock to the U.S. in its push to tighten international sanctions on Iran. Both are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council and have shown no sign the new report will change their stance.

Alongside Medvedev, Obama said the two “reaffirmed our intention to work to shape a common response” on Iran. Shortly after, Obama joined Hu in a run of back-to-back diplomacy with the heads of two allies that hold complicated and at times divisive relations with the U.S. Obama said he and the Chinese leader want to ensure that Iran abides by “international rules and norms.” Obama’s comments were broad enough to portray a united front without yielding any clear indication of progress. Medvedev, for his part, was largely silent on Iran during his remarks, merely acknowledging the subject was discussed. Hu did not mention Iran at all.

White House aides insisted later that Russia and China remain unified with the U.S. and other allies in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and that Obama, Hu and Medvedev had agreed to work on the next steps. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the new allegations about Iran’s programs demand an international response. “I think the Russians and the Chinese understand that,” he said. “We’re going to be working with them to formulate that response.”

Germany, meanwhile, Europe’s biggest exporter to Iran, plans to further limit bilateral trade, a government spokesman was quoted by German news weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday as saying. “Germany will actively support tougher sanctions against Iran,” Steffen Seibert told the news weekly. The EU is preparing a new round of sanctions against Iran, but diplomats said the measures would likely not be finalized in time for a meeting of EU foreign ministers today.

Iran has insisted its nuclear work is in the peaceful pursuit of energy and research, not weaponry. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said he sees no more room for compromise in the battle over Iran’s contested nuclear program, in an interview published yesterday. “I think there’s no more point in making additional concessions,” he told Der Spiegel. “The nuclear question is just a pretext to weaken us by all means.” Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned yesterday that Iran must review its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog due to the hostile nature of the report, which “amounted to hostility and a copy of orders issued by arch-foes Israel and the U.S.”

Nuclear-armed North Korea yesterday accused the U.S. and Israel of engaging in “extreme war frenzy” over Iran’s atomic program, warning a new war may break out in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, according to Daily Telegraph, the U.S. leader was rebuffed last month when he demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to “seek Washington’s permission,” sources said. According to the Telegraph story, the disclosure, made by insiders briefed on a top-secret meeting between America’s most senior defense chief and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister, comes amid concerns that Iran’s continuing progress toward nuclear weapons capability means the Israel has all but lost hope for a diplomatic solution.