The United States' number-two diplomat says he will urge the Chinese authorities this week to support further United Nations sanctions against Iran. But Iran has sent one of its own top officials to Beijing, presumably to counter the U.S. arguments. Daniel Schearf reports from the Chinese capital.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has two days of meetings with Chinese officials scheduled this week, and he told journalists in Beijing Thursday he will seek Chinese support for new sanctions against Iran.
Negroponte will not have the Chinese to himself, however. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Beijing Thursday to give the Chinese Tehran's side of the argument.
Negroponte acknowledged a recent U.S. intelligence report that said Iran had suspended its nuclear warhead design program. But he says it is possible Tehran might have restarted that program.
Either way, he says, Iran continues to produce nuclear material and missiles that could one day be used to make a nuclear weapon.
"We think it's important that there be an additional Security Council resolution because Iran is out of compliance with previously passed resolutions. And that is the argument that will be presented," he said.
Iran has refused to halt its program of uranium enrichment, despite prolonged negotiations with the European Union on the topic, two U.N. resolutions condemning the program, and economic sanctions imposed against it.
Iran says it is within its rights to develop nuclear energy for peacetime purposes, and insists it has no plans to build nuclear weapons, contrary to what Western nations have suggested.
Top diplomats from the five permanent member nations of the Security Council, plus Germany, are to meet in Berlin next week to discuss possible new sanctions against Iran.
The United States has been pushing for a third round of tougher sanctions, but China and Russia, both permanent members with veto power in the Security Council, have been reluctant to lend their support.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, repeated Beijing's position Thursday.
Jiang says China hopes Iran abides by the U.N. Security Council resolutions, continues with a flexible attitude, and cooperates with the international community.
Negroponte is in China for semi-annual meetings with Chinese officials on a range of international issues.
These will include Taiwan's planned March referendum on seeking U.N. membership, which China and the U.S. have warned could increase tensions in the region.
Taiwan lost its seat in the U.N. in 1971 and the People's Republic of China was installed in its place. Taiwan's independence-leaning president wants to regain U.N. membership.
Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province that must one day reunite with the mainland, and opposes any action that would recognize Taiwan as independent from China.