PARIS | U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned China on Friday it risks diplomatic isolation and disruption to its energy supplies unless it helps keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Speaking in Paris, Clinton said she and others who support additional sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program are lobbying China to back new U.N. penalties on the Iranian government.
She said she understood China’s reluctance to impose new penalties on Iran, its third-largest supplier of oil. But she stressed that a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Persian Gulf and imperil oil shipments China gets from other Arab states in the region.
There is a new push for sanctions at the U.N. because of Iran’s continued refusal to engage on the matter with the five permanent members of the Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. — and Germany.
Administration officials have invited new talks with Iran, but with no sign that Iran wants to do business, the focus has turned to penalties.
“As we move away from the engagement track, which has not produced the result that some had hoped for, and move forward on the pressure and sanctions track, China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the Gulf, from which they receive a significant percentage of their oil supplies,” Clinton said.
She spoke a day after the U.S. Senate approved new sanctions against Iran that would extend U.S. prohibitions on business dealings with Iran. The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran and extremely limited commercial interaction, all as a result of the rupture in 1979 when militants took over the U.S. Embassy.
Clinton aid the legislative efforts do not conflict with her work to line up other countries for separate international sanctions against Iran.
“We will do what we can to direct their legislation in a way that supports our efforts internationally,” Clinton said in Paris.
“We’re going to work as hard as we can to get the strongest possible resolution,” at the U.N., Clinton said.
The U.S. is the most visible leader in the new push for U.N. Security Council sanctions, and Clinton spent much of her time in Europe this week lobbying major powers whose support she needs to pass and enforce new economic penalties. Some of the additional measures that will be proposed target elements of Iran’s powerful militia structure, U.S. officials said.
The Security Council has approved three previous sets of restrictions and penalties related to Iran’s defiance of international demands for assurances about its nuclear program. The punishments have mostly been mild and directed at government and business entities tied to the nuclear program. In response, Iran has accelerated its work to enrich uranium.
“We certainly expect to come up with an even firmer fourth resolution,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said following a meeting with Clinton on Friday.
The Obama administration has said Iran appears bent on developing nuclear weapons, although Iran claims its nuclear work is peaceful. Iran is thought to have stockpiled more than enough nuclear material to manufacture a single bomb, and more is being made daily.
The risks of an Iranian bomb are manifold, Clinton said.
“It will produce an arms race,” in the Persian Gulf, and Israel will feel its very existence threatened, Clinton said in response to a question from an audience member during a speech at a French military academy. “All of that is incredibly dangerous.”
The U.S. has cautioned Israel publicly against a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s known nuclear facilities, arguing that such an attack would invite an arms race and retaliation.
China has traditionally resisted U.N. Security Council sanctions, saying they are counterproductive and harm efforts to persuade Iran to prove its claim that the nuclear program is peaceful.
Clinton met Thursday in London with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to make the case to move ahead with sanctions at the United Nations. U.S. officials said Yang’s response was noncommittal.
In Paris, Clinton said her message to the Chinese had been this: “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. But think about the longer-term implications.”
The U.S. risked tension with China on a different matter, with formal word Friday that an arms sale to Taiwan will go ahead. The deal would provide more than $6 billion in weapons sales to the self-governing island the Chinese claim as their own.