China has ended months of suspense by agreeing to discuss new sanctions against Iran and confirming that President Hu Jintao would visit Washington this month despite disputes with the US.
The agreement to discuss sanctions marked a significant shift by China after months of resisting western nations’ demands for concerted pressure on Tehran, which they accuse of seeking the means to assemble nuclear weapons.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was in Beijing on Thursday to meet Chinese state councillor Dai Bingguo and foreign minister Yang Jiechi.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Wednesday in New York that the US, Britain, France, Russia and Germany had agreed with China to begin discussing a proposed UN Security Council resolution with new sanctions on Iran.
In Beijing, the foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told the media that the six nations held a conference call on Wednesday evening and ‘all parties agreed to continue to maintain contact through various channels’.
“China will continue to seek a diplomatic settlement to the Iranian nuclear issue through constructive efforts,” Qin said.
Former Chinese diplomat to Tehran Guo Xiangang said Beijing is likely to accept something harsher than past sanctions on Iran but not too harsh.
Beijing also confirmed that Hu would attend a global nuclear security summit on April 12-13 in Washington.
American officials had speculated that Hu might boycott the summit to signal anger over disputes with the US on Taiwan, Tibet, the Chinese currency exchange rate and Internet censorship.