Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Straw Says China's Backing on Iran is Crucial

Katherine Baldwin, Reuters:
Britain tried to enlist China's support in the nuclear standoff with Iran on Wednesday, saying Beijing should use its growing diplomatic muscle in alliance with international partners to resolve global challenges. "China shares with us a profound interest in Middle East stability and preventing the acquisition by Iran of nuclear weapons," Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.

"China's support for this goal, as a permanent member of the (United Nations) Security Council, has been valuable already and will be increasingly crucial in securing international consensus in the face of Iran's intransigence," he added. READ MORE

In a speech, Straw said London wanted Beijing to be a "constructive, non-threatening international partner".

His comments come as Britain, the United States and France struggle to win the support of China and Russia for possible sanctions against Iran to rein in its nuclear activities. China and Russia are resisting the pressure.

Tehran says its nuclear activities are peaceful and has said it will freeze ties with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog and speed up its atomic programme if it is hit by sanctions.

China's image as a constructive partner was vital to allay Western fears over its economic might and persuade trading partners not to seek protectionist measures, Straw said.

"A leading country which defines its interests broadly, as being served through sustaining the integrity of the overall international system, rather than narrowly, as being served by securing short-term bilateral advantage," he said.

He said China had been a positive partner in fighting bird flu, in addressing the Asian financial market crisis in the 1990s, on Iran, on North Korea and in helping to calm the political crisis in Nepal.

Using influence earned through trade and investment, China can promote good governance in Africa, Straw said. He described a Chinese role in problems in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Burma.

Straw also urged China's leaders to ensure economic reform at home was accompanied by political reform.

"To preserve stability, China's leaders need to let go, allowing progressively more pluralism in their system. It matters enormously to the world economy that they rise to this challenge," he said.