- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

President Obama on Tuesday acknowledged the challenge of bringing Chinese leaders on board for a multilateral push to impose stiff sanctions on Iran, but expressed confidence Beijing will ultimately join the U.S. and other allies in punishing the country for its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In fact, Mr. Obama described progress on sanctions negotiations as evidence that international diplomacy is working, despite the failure thus far to reach an agreement.

“We have a strong number of countries on the [U.N.] Security Council who believe this is the right thing to do, but I think these negotations can be difficult,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the conclusion of a two-day summit on nuclear security that drew nearly 50 world leaders to Washington. “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.”

Mr. Obama said he didn’t want to speculate beyond that, but restated the need to reach a consensus sooner rather than later, saying he is not interested in “having a long, drawn-out process for months.”

Russia has come out in support of sanctions against Iran with certain limits, leaving China as the last major roadblock.

“Iran is an oil-producing state,” he said. “I think that a lot of countries around the world have trade relationships with Iran and we’re mindful of that. But what I said to [Chinese President Hu Jintao], and what I’ve said to every world leader that I’ve talked to, is that words have to mean something. There have to be some consequences.”

While Mr. Obama noted the right of each country to take advantage of nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, he cited Iran’s refusal to cooperate with international weapons inspectors as a sign their nuclear efforts are intended for other purposes.

He described the two-day summit as a success, listing several major achievements announced this week, including Ukraine’s decision to get rid of its weapons-grade uranium and Russia’s pledge to shut down its final plutonium reactor.

Though it is non-binding, Mr. Obama also touted an agreement, signed by the global leaders in attendance, that calls for cooperation in securing all of the world’s nuclear material in four years to prevent “non-state actors” such as terrorist groups from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Mr. Obama sidestepped a question from a reporter about Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal, saying merely that the U.S. encourages all countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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