Wednesday, December 28, 2005

China’s government yesterday demanded that the Bush administration lift sanctions imposed on six companies on charges of illicit sales to Iran, saying the action undermined Beijing’s cooperation with the United States.

New details of the arms-related transfers were disclosed yesterday, including two chemical shipments from India to Iran, and Tehran’s purchase of 800 high-powered sniper rifles from an Austrian gun maker.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing that the sanctions were unjustified and should be lifted.

A State Department spokesman said yesterday the Chinese objections would not change the U.S. decision.

The Bush administration announced this week it had imposed sanctions on six Chinese state-run companies, two Indian chemical manufacturers, and the Austrian arms maker for selling missile-related and weapons of mass destruction goods to Iran.

The sanctions were imposed under the 2000 Iran Nonproliferation Act.

“These entities are being sanctioned based on credible information that they transferred equipment and technology listed on the Multilateral Export Control Lists to Iran,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday.

Mr. Ereli said the sanctions, while limited, are “an important and effective tool in constraining Iran’s efforts to develop missile and WMD capabilities.”

“It does have an impact, I think, particularly in alerting governments to activity taking place in their countries,” he said in a briefing.

A second administration official said the transfers took place late last year and earlier this year and contributed to Iran’s missile and chemical-weapons programs.

Mr. Qin said the United States should “change this wrongful action.” He said the sanctions are not beneficial to U.S.-China cooperation in curbing the spread of weapons and missiles.

Three of the Chinese firms that were sanctioned in the past include the China National Aerotechnology Import Export Corp., known as CATIC; the missile exporter China North Industries Corp., known as NORINCO; and Zibo Chemet Equipment Co., which makes glass-lined containers that can be used for chemical arms.

Two Indian companies also hit with sanctions are Sabero Organics Chemical and Sandhya Organics Chemical. The Austrian firm Steyr-Mannlicher, which makes high-quality assault weapons, also is being sanctioned.

In New Delhi, the Indian government also criticized the sanctions and insisted chemical sales to Iran were legal.

“Our preliminary assessment is that the transfer of such chemicals is not in violation of our regulations or our international obligations,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

In Vienna, Austria, Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Rauch said the company Steyr-Mannlicher GmbH sold the sniper rifles to Iran’s police. He said the sale was approved by the Interior and Foreign ministries in November 2004.

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