THURSDAY, NOV. 24, 2005

China easing toward U.S. position on Iran

VIENNA, Austria – Washington and its European allies, in a diplomatic coup, are gradually enlisting Chinese support on how to deal with Iran and its suspicious nuclear activities, diplomats and officials said Wednesday.

Beijing’s backing before a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Nov. 17 adds additional clout to an ambitious international Iran strategy that has recently seen Russia join the Americans and Europeans in pressuring Iran to give up technology that could make nuclear arms.

For months, Iran has relied on Beijing and Moscow to fend off a U.S.-backed push to have it hauled before the U.N. Security Council. While the Americans and Europeans have opted not to lobby for referral at the meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board, they could resume their efforts at a later session if they judge that the Russians, Chinese and other key nations will not stand in their way.

A European official told the Associated Press that “the Chinese are very, very constructive and on board with the (U.S.)-European position” – engaging Iran on giving up uranium enrichment, while indirectly keeping the possibility of Security Council action alive.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the strategy on how to contain Iran on the nuclear front is confidential, was summing up a readout of a high-level London meeting Friday.

A U.S. official suggested the Americans had started sharing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program with Beijing. While still opposed to Security Council referral, the Chinese were “moving closer to the European and U.S. position,” he said.


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