LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) – A meeting of world powers on tougher sanctions on Iran has been cancelled after China pulled out, European diplomatic sources said on Friday, revealing tensions after a key report into Tehran’s atomic activities.
Political directors from Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China were due to meet on Monday to assess a report about Tehran’s nuclear programme by the U.N. atomic watchdog and from the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
“There’s no meeting scheduled now because the Chinese are saying that they can’t make the date,” said a European diplomatic source. “I think it’s partly related to genuine travel difficulties, but also linked to resistance on the broader question of sanctions from that quarter.”
Iran has refused to halt uranium enrichment despite two successive United Nations’ sanctions resolutions and denies the West’s allegations that it wants to make atomic bombs, saying its programme is for peaceful power generation.
The so-called “P5+1” group — the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — have struggled to maintain consensus over hitting Iran with harder sanctions.
The United States recently imposed unilateral economic sanctions and has not ruled out military action against Iran.
Britain has also been pushing hard for a third round of sanctions, including restrictions on energy and financial investment in Iran.
But China and Russia, both with veto power in the Security Council, have argued strongly to give more time to negotiations to encourage Iranian compliance with international demands.
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday said Iran had made important strides towards clarifying past nuclear activities but disclosures remained incomplete and it had also dramatically expanded uranium enrichment.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, believed its report showing Iran was starting to shed light on nuclear activities would be seized on by Russia and China as grounds for shelving further sanctions.
“There is frustration on the Western side over China and Russia not having the same sense of urgency about Iran, and this problem may well increase due to this report,” said a European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Iran has threatened to stop cooperating if hit with more sanctions. Russia and China want to preserve strong trade ties with Iran and say isolating the Islamic Republic could lead to wider Middle East conflict.
If Security Council avenues remain blocked, European Union states could consider separate sanctions to back up a broad U.S. embargo against the Islamic Republic.
Germany — one of Europe’s biggest trade partners with Iran which has so far been reluctant to consider a halt to new export guarantees — said on Friday it would consider the possibility of separate EU measures.
Irancove @ November 17, 2007