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Tehran lobbies China against new Iran sanctions

Tehran urged China not to bend to US pressure for new Iran sanctions, which Vice President Joe Biden strongly supported in meetings with top Israel leaders today.

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China is one of five veto-wielding members on the Security Council, but despite close ties to Iran it joined with the other permanent council member close to Iran – Russia – in previous unanimous votes that imposed three sets of United Nations' sanctions. Those resolutions demand that Iran cease enriching uranium while outstanding questions about possible weaponization projects are resolved.

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The US and European Union have also imposed a string of their own targeted measures aimed at undermining Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and the Revolutionary Guard officers who oversee them.

Iran snubbed a US-backed deal put forward in October by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that would have seen Iran export the bulk of its homemade low-enriched uranium to be converted into fuel by France and Russia for a research reactor in Tehran.

Iran first appeared to accept the deal, but quickly rejected it. Then, amid a host of mixed messages, Iran replied months later with an adjusted counteroffer that the US and some European officials say is unacceptable.

China: Diplomacy 'cannot be lightly abandoned'

In the meantime, Iran says it has begun to enrich uranium to higher levels – from 3.5 percent to nearly 20 percent, which would be suitable for nuclear fuel, but still not at the 90 percent level needed for a weapon.

That decision has unsettled governments from Washington to Moscow. Ongoing enrichment and the defiant rhetoric from Tehran has driven the renewed push for sanctions. A draft of new measures is already in circulation among diplomats.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Brazil last week to convince that temporary Security Council member to support sanctions – but she was rebuffed instead with a reaffirmation by Brazil of Iran’s unhindered right to nuclear power.

Russia has said it is willing to consider new sanctions if they are targeted, and not designed to “cripple” Iran’s population. China’s foreign minister said Sunday that new sanctions would not solve the nuclear issue – a point privately acknowledged by senior US officials, who note that no level of sanctions upon Iran have compelled it to change policy in the past.

“China upholds resolving the Iran nuclear issue peacefully, through dialogue, negotiation and diplomatic means,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Tuesday. “We also believe that at present, there is still room for diplomatic efforts.”

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