Iran nuclear issue growing US-China pawn

China’s foreign minister used his maiden visit to a security conference in Europe Friday to issue a broadside against US arms sales to Taiwan and to resist US pressure to get tough on Iran.

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The 6.4-billion-dollar deal unveiled last month to sell arms to Taiwan, which China views as part of its territory, is “obviously a violation of the code of conduct between nations,” Yang Jiechi said.

“We approached the US side and made a representation very seriously, on many occasions, yet the US still went ahead with the sale.”

“Of course the Chinese government and the people have to react. It is within its sovereign right to do what is necessary… I think the Chinese people and the government of every region should feel indignant about this thing.”

The spat is one of several issues to have contributed to a worsening of relations in recent weeks, together with the upcoming White House visit by the Dalai Lama and cyber attacks on US firms such as Google.

Top military figures meet in Germany

Yang’s comments came on the first day of the Munich Security Conference in Germany, a 46-year-old gathering dubbed the “Davos of security policy” after the World Economic Forum held last month at the Swiss ski resort.

The forum brings together some 300 top military, diplomatic and political figures, traditionally from members of the NATO military alliance but increasingly from further afield.

The minister also used his keynote speech in his first appearance at Munich to address another of the many foreign policy headaches facing US President Barack Obama after a year in office: Iran’s nuclear programme.

Ahmadinejad raises progress hopes

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week raised hopes of progress in the international stand-off over its nuclear activities by indicating that he might be ready to accept an offer to send some uranium abroad for enrichment.

Doing so would help soothe suspicions that Iran wanted to arm itself with nuclear weapons, but Western powers fear that the comments constitute a stalling tactic to head off a fourth round of sanctions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said clarification was needed from Iran but said Friday that Tehran has failed to give a proper response to the deal and sanctions should be studied.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, a surprise visitor to Munich, told a late-night session that Iran was “serious” about an exchange and that he believed a deal was close.

“Under the present conditions that we have reached, I think that we are approaching a final agreement that can be accepted by all parties,” Mottaki said.

Envoys from six powers negotiating with Iran held a conference call on Friday in which they “took stock of the recent comments by Iran but also continued to evaluate potential actions on the pressure track,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Amid pressure from the US, France, Britain and Germany for more sanctions, Yang said that China was sticking to its position that a “mutually acceptable” solution to the spat could “somehow” be found.

“This issue has entered a crucial stage. The parties concerned should, with their overall long-term interests in mind, step up diplomatic efforts, stay patient and adopt a more flexible, pragmatic and proactive policy,” he said.


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