China Uneasy About Sanctions Against Iran, Says They'll Hurt West

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - With the U.N. Security Council's deadline for Iran's nuclear activities looming, China is warning the Western powers not to impose sanctions against Tehran.

In an "analysis" of the situation, China Radio International -- a government mouthpiece -- said sanctions against Iran could harm the United States and Europe too, Iran's IRNA news agency reported.

The radio analysis referred to the West's dependence on Iranian oil, and on the transit of oil from the broader Persian Gulf region through the Hormuz Strait, which Iran dominates.

Because of these factors, China Radio said, Western economies would suffer if sanctions were to be imposed on Iran.

The analysis said neither economic sanctions nor military force would resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programs.

Asserting that three years of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities had found no evidence that Iran was diverting technology to a weapons program, the Chinese network suggested that U.S. pressure on Iran was linked to the midterm elections in November.

Iranian leaders have on several occasions hinted at disrupting oil shipments moving through the Hormuz Strait. Some 40 percent of the world's oil passes through the vulnerable waterway.

They also have warned that sanctions would harm industrialized economies more than they would hurt Iran.

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is a peaceful one designed to produce electricity, but the U.S. and others suspect the Islamic Republic is trying to develop the capability to manufacture atomic weapons.

Under U.N. Security Council resolution 1696, Iran has been given until August 31 to stop uranium-enriching and reprocessing activities, or face the prospect of sanctions.

U.S ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said at the weekend that if the council failed to take action against Iran in line with the resolution, Washington was prepared to take steps outside the council, together with close allies, to restrict trade with Iran and freeze assets. Tehran called the remarks an insult to the world body.

Energy-hungry China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, has strong and growing links with Iran; Iran, the world's fourth largest exporter of crude oil, currently supplies 14 percent of China's oil needs.

China also has signed a deal to get natural gas from Iran over a 25-year period, is interested in oil developments projects in Iran.

The U.S. government has accused state-linked Chinese companies of transferring sensitive weapons technology to Iran.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow