China sees embargo on Iran as last resort in efforts to end Gulf war

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

China would support an arms embargo against Iran as proposed by the United States only if diplomatic pressure fails to end the Gulf war, according to Chinese foreign policy experts. Peking favors a ``patient and gradual'' negotiated approach to halting the war rather than strategic or military measures, say experts with access to unpublicized government information.

``If all countries involved have exhausted other measures ... if there is no other way, we could support an arms embargo,'' said Huang Tingwei of Peking's Institute of International Relations. China's Foreign Ministry declined to answer questions recently on whether Peking would back an arms embargo, and Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian did not mention it in related remarks before the UN General Assembly Sept. 23.

Mr. Huang and other analysts stressed that problems surrounding activating an embargo advocated by the US would cause it to have only limited impact. ``The United States' attitude of using arms embargos or economic sanctions to influence events ... basically have not been very effective,'' Huang said. ``Iran can certainly obtain arms despite an embargo.''

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The Soviet Union's reluctance to endorse an arms embargo has also led China to doubt the feasibility of the proposal, said Zhou Jiyong, a professor of international relations at the institute.

As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the Soviet Union are empowered to veto an embargo. The remaining three Council members, the US, Britain, and France have backed sanctions against Iran.

China feels the best way to end the seven-year-old war is to continue diplomatic pressure on Iran to accept a July 20 UN resolution calling for a cease-fire and regional mediation efforts, the experts said.

``If Iran insists on carrying on the war it will be isolated,'' said Mr. Zhou, noting the growing impatience of Arab nations with Iran's recalcitrance.

In his UN address, Foreign Minister Wu urged the US and the Soviet Union to end their military involvement in the region and ``leave the littoral countries of the Gulf to solve the Gulf problems by themselves through consultations,'' the official New China News Agency reported.

``The US and Soviet Union should not adopt measures that exacerbate the conflict,'' said Huang, referring to superpower naval presence in the Gulf.

In recent weeks, Chinese leaders have urged high-ranking envoys from Iran and Iraq to accept the UN cease-fire resolution. China enjoys broad political and economic ties with Iran and Iraq, and has been criticized for allegedly selling arms to both - a charge Peking denies.

One Chinese strategic analyst acknowledged that Iran has Chinese-made Silkworm missiles, but claimed Tehran procured them indirectly from a third party, possibly North Korea.

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