Clinton Issues Warning to China on Iran

Clinton Issues Warning to China on Iran

PARIS — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned China on Friday that it would face economic insecurity and diplomatic isolation if it did not sign on to tough new sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, raising the pressure on Beijing to fall in line with an American-led campaign.

Speaking to students at the École Militaire, the prestigious French war college, Mrs. Clinton said, “China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing effect that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the gulf” — referring to the Persian Gulf — “from which they receive a significant percentage of their oil supplies.”

With Russia increasingly frustrated by Iran’s recalcitrance, China has emerged as the lone holdout to a new United Nations resolution that would focus sweeping financial and economic sanctions on Iran’s leadership, including a possible ban on sales of technology to its energy sector.

Mrs. Clinton — in a flurry of meetings this week in Europe, including one with the Chinese foreign minister — has tried to build momentum for new measures against Iran. Britain, France, and Germany back the effort, and Russia, which has often blocked previous efforts, now seems ready to act.

Only China, which imports crude oil from Iran and has large investments in its oil and gas sector, has said it would prefer to continue negotiating with the Iranian government. With a veto in the United Nations Security Council, it could block a move to impose additional sanctions.

“We understand that right now it seems counterproductive to you to sanction a country from which you get so much of the natural resources your growing economy needs,” Mrs. Clinton said in comments after a speech on European security. “But think about the longer-term implications.”

American officials have been making this argument privately to the Chinese for weeks, as the United States tries to win them over for new sanctions. But this is the first time Mrs. Clinton has publicly made the link between China’s energy security and the alarm over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

In case Beijing missed the urgency of her appeal, Mrs. Clinton remarked that a nuclear-armed Iran would risk setting off an arms race in the Persian Gulf, and that it would provoke a military strike from Israel, which she said would regard a nuclear Iran as “existential threat.”

Tensions between China and the United States have flared recently over a range of issues, most notably Internet freedom and Google’s announcement that its systems had been hacked by sources in mainland China. Unprompted, Mrs. Clinton alluded to another source of friction: President Obama’s plan to meet with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing condemns as a subversive.

China, she said, should not allow such irritants to derail its otherwise “positive, comprehensive” relationship with the United States.

Mrs. Clinton was in London and Paris this week for meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen, and for her security speech. But jitters about Iran and its nuclear ambitions have shadowed her at every stop.

In London, Mrs. Clinton brought along specialists on sanctions from the Treasury Department to talk to Chinese officials about technical issues, like how the Iranian government transfers funds to banks in Asia to avoid restrictions on its transactions in Western banks.

Mrs. Clinton met Thursday with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, who was attending the Afghanistan conference. A senior administration official said Mr. Yang listened to the American arguments but reiterated his government’s preference to stay with negotiations.

International patience with Iran has frayed, particularly since Iranian authorities backed out of a deal to ship a significant portion of its lightly enriched uranium out of the country for further enrichment, either in France or Russia. Iran says it needs the more enriched uranium for medical uses.

Frustration with Iran is also mounting on Capitol Hill, where the Senate passed its own sanctions bill on Wednesday. Mrs. Clinton said the administration would put its focus on obtaining a United Nations resolution, though she said the Senate’s legislation could end up being “complementary.”

As part of the effort to broaden and toughen sanctions, the Obama administration is expected to push to add financial institutions to the blacklist of those helping finance Iran’s nuclear program.

The focus of these sanctions, Mrs. Clinton has said, would be on Iran’s leadership, particularly members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, many of whom also played a role in cracking down on the enduring protests after Iran’s disputed presidential election in June.

Mrs. Clinton, who met President Nicholas Sarkozy of France earlier in the day, said she applauded his “leadership on this issue.”

The main reason for her stop in Paris — the address on European security — was meant to answer recent Russian proposals to revamp security arrangements on the Continent, including major arms treaties.

The United States, Mrs. Clinton said, opposed negotiating new security treaties, saying that would be time-consuming and cumbersome. Instead, she said she wanted to strengthen existing institutions.

“The United States and Russia will not always agree,” she said. “Our interests will not always overlap. But when we disagree, we will seek constructive ways to discuss and manage our differences.”

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