G-8 demand Iranian compliance on nukes

Associatedpress and Associatedpress

GATINEAU, Quebec — Diplomats from the world’s leading economies say Iran’s recent actions deepen the doubts that its nuclear program is aimed at anything other than building a bomb, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton predicted Tuesday that world powers will agree on a new round of U.N. sanctions.

The main audience for the tough talk seems to be countries not represented among the exclusive Group of Eight economic club: China and countries like Turkey and Brazil that have not been on board with sanctions.

Closing a conference of foreign ministers from the G-8 industrialized nations, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said it is time to act.

Clinton said the nations meeting in Canada see a growing alarm around the world about the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Clinton pointed to a string of disclosures over more than a year about the nature and extent of Iran’s once-secret nuclear program. Disclosure of the uranium enrichment facility near Qum, the announcement of more facilities to be developed as well as announcements of greater efforts at enrichment are nudging the consensus toward sanctions, she said.

“The last 15 months have demonstrated the unwillingness of Iran to fulfill its international obligations and that’s the basis of my optimism that we’re going to have a consensus reached in the Security Council,” Clinton said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged a heightened focus and stronger coordinated action, including sanctions if necessary, on the Iranian regime and said Tehran “must halt its nuclear enrichment activities and engage in peaceful dialogue.”

With Iran refusing to comply, the message is largely directed at China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that is not a member of the G-8.

China, a vocal opponent of sanctions, wields veto power in the Security Council, and 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 on Monday, Clinton said China shared the view of the U.S., its European allies and Russia that “a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable.”

Publicly, China reiterated its stance that the countries should seek a solution through negotiations, not new sanctions.

“We hope relevant parties could fully show their flexibility and make further efforts toward a proper resolution of this issue through diplomatic means,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday at a regular news briefing.

China opposes nuclear weapons for Iran but says the country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Iran is already under three sets of Security Council sanctions and China has 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 traveling 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 Monday 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.”