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(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni wrapped up her visit to China Tuesday without any sign of having broken down Beijing's opposition to new United Nations sanctions against Iran.
In meetings with China's Premier Wen Jiabao, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Wang Jiarui, who is in charge of external relations for the Communist Party, Livni reiterated her calls for stepped up sanctions to get Teheran to abandon its nuclear program.
However, she made no mention of any breakthroughs at a press conference held after the talks, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry restated its opposition to new economic measures against Iran.
At a regularly scheduled news conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said sanctions were not always the best way to resolve tensions.
China believed "the unbridled use of sanctions should not be encouraged," he said.
China backed two rounds of UN sanctions, but has since joined fellow permanent Security Council member Russia in opposing new measures. Wen will be traveling to Russia in the coming days where strategy on Iran is expected to be high on the agenda.
Despite the Chinese Foreign Ministry's statement, a spokesman for Livni claimed the minister had enjoyed some success in getting her message through, but gave no details. "They have conveyed to us that they share our concern over Iran's nuclear program," the spokesman said.
According to a statement issued by Livni, she told the Chinese leaders the world could not "afford a nuclear Iran," and that as a country that both did business in Iran and had influence there, China had an important role to play in stopping the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. "Time is not working in the world's favor," she said.
Livni said the Iranians were taking advantage of the time the international community was spending holding meetings on the topic, and that while the world was talking, Teheran was further developing its nuclear technology. "Iran's technological clock is working faster than the political clock opposing it," she said.
"Iran is testing the response of the world, and the states bordering Iran are also looking on," Livni said. "Hesitation in this matter is looked upon by the Iranian regime as weakness, and the moderate states in the region will try to appease Iran instead of fighting it, in order to reduce the danger to themselves. In order for the diplomatic steps to be more effective - and there are signs that the steps taken until now have been effective - the time has come to take stronger measures, more meaningful and immediate action."
Alluding to China's vast oil needs and dependence on Middle East and Iranian oil, Livni said a nuclear Iran "would upset the stability of the Middle East and could lead to unexpected consequences for the regular supply of oil to the world, including to China, and to strengthening radical, isolationist elements on every continent."
Livni said new Security Council sanctions should include actions against Iranian banks and the Revolutionary Guards, prohibit foreign investment in Iran and end foreign trade insurance. In an apparent reference to North Korea, Livni said there was a need to prevent the proliferation of nuclear technology to Iran by all countries, including from Asian states.
During the meeting with the Chinese foreign minister, Livni signed a tourism agreement that gave Israel the status of a preferred tourist destination and will facilitate visits by Chinese tour groups to the Jewish state.
Jordan's King Abdullah II was also in China on Tuesday, and he urged Beijing to take a more active role in the Middle East diplomatic process. At the start of a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Abdullah said he hoped for a stronger Chinese role because "you are always considered an honest broker and are very well-respected in our part of the world."
AP contributed to this report.