(AFP) – Feb 9, 2008
MUNICH, Germany (AFP) — A prominent US senator criticized China on Saturday for weakening international sanctions against Iran by looking to its own interests and increasing trade with Tehran.
"It is outrageous when Germany makes the principled decision to curtail its exports to Iran, to watch as the People's Republic of China moves in and exploits that decision for its own commercial advantage," Senator Joseph Lieberman told an international security conference here.
France and Britain -- two of six countries leading international efforts to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme -- recently put forward proposals to expand sanctions against Iran, beyond those currently authorised by the United Nations Security Council.
China is one of the other six powers currently involved in talks on strengthening sanctions against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
"It would be very effective and significant for the EU to do this -- and for other responsible stakeholders in the international system, including our allies in East Asia and the Middle East, to follow Europe's lead," said Lieberman, an independent Democrat from Connecticut and former vice-presidential candidate.
But "some nations are unfortunately using the sanctions regime as an opportunity to expand business ties with Iran and reap profits, at the expense of the rest of the world," he said, adding that this only heightened the threat of "military confrontation."
Such action undermined the sanctions regime and made it less likely Iran would suspend its nuclear activities, he said.
Iran denies Western charges that it is seeking nuclear arms, insisting its programme is peaceful and aimed at providing civilian energy.
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also addressed the security conference Saturday, stressed that the international community should be ready to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme "unless our fears are unequivocally dispelled."
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