At Shanghai Expo, Ahmadinejad polite despite China's support for Iran sanctions
On visit to the Shanghai Expo, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alluded to 'pressure and intimidation' that China may have felt in the Iran sanctions vote. China, the largest customer of Iran oil, is treading carefully in the Middle East.
China gave a low-key welcome to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he visited the Shanghai Expo on Friday, just days after Beijing voted for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Officials here have insisted repeatedly in recent days that no senior government leader would meet Mr. Ahmadinejad, who inspected the Iranian pavilion at the Expo.
In Pictures Shanghai World Expo 2010 at night
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China’s vote in favor of sanctions have put fresh strains on its traditionally friendly relations with Tehran. Iran’s top nuclear official lashed out at Beijing Thursday, warning that “China is gradually losing its respectable position in the Islamic world.” But Ahmadinejad was polite in Shanghai.
IN PICTURES: Shanghai World Expo 2010 at night
"We have very good relations with China and we have no reason to weaken our relations with China.... The problem is the United States," said Ahmadinejad, who said Security Council countries had been subject to pressure and intimidation, according to the Associated Press.
China's delicate dance in the Mideast
The sanctions vote was another step in China’s delicate dance to strike a balance between its various political and economic interests in the Middle East, analysts here say.
China is a big customer for Iranian oil and a major investor in Iran’s energy sector, but Beijing is anxious not to alienate Tehran’s rivals in the Arab world. However, policymakers here had also feared a Chinese veto of the Western-backed sanctions resolution would have added another irritant to relations with Washington.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang tried to placate Iran after the UN Security Council meeting, saying, “China attaches great importance to relations with Iran” and adding that “bilateral ties are not only in the interests of both nations, but also in the interests of regional peace, stability, and development.”
Why China, a friend of Iran, doesn't want it to get the bomb
Chinese experts on the Middle East say their government’s overriding priority in the Middle East is to stay friends with as many countries as possible and to ensure stability.
“Stability for the United States means a kind of order and good governance,” suggests Jin Liangxiang, a Middle East researcher at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. “For China, it means a necessary environment for secure and stable energy supplies.”
China objects to Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program not just because Beijing is opposed to nuclear proliferation, but because it threatens an arms race, says Yin Gang, an analyst with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“If Iran had a nuclear deterrent, other countries in the region would seek a new balance and seek to follow suit," says Professor Yin. “Iran cannot be allowed to have its own bomb or there would be a big war in the Middle East.”