WASHINGTON – President Obama said Tuesday there is solid UN support for imposing tougher sanctions on Iran, but admitted veto-wielding China is not fully onboard with a new crackdown on Tehran‘s suspected nuclear weapons program. “With respect to sanctions, I think that we have a strong number of countries on the Security Council who believe this is the right thing to do. But I think these negotiations can be difficult,” Obama said at the close of his Nuclear Security Summit.
A day after the White House announced Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to cooperate with the drafting of sanctions against Iran, it was clear China had not made a total commitment to squeezing Tehran. Hu has agreed only to send negotiators to New York for talks aimed at crafting economic sanctions, but he remains concerned about keeping the oil China buys from Iran flowing. The U.S. reportedly is trying to broker a deal with other oil states to offset any Iranian oil lost to China.
“I am going to push as hard as I can to make sure that we get strong sanctions that have consequences for Iran as it’s making calculations about its nuclear program, and that those are done on a timely basis,” Obama told a news conference that focused totally on foreign policy issues.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu suggested China still holds out hope an agreement between Western powers and Iran can be reached without sanctions. “China hopes that various parties will continue to step up diplomatic efforts and actively seek effective ways to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations,” Ma told reporters.
If talks don’t work out, China can veto the sanctions at the UN. The summit ended with the 47 participating nations agreeing to lock away weapons-grade nuclear material within four years to keep it away from terrorists.