(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin warned Chinese Ambassador to Israel Gao Yanping of the dangers posed by "fundamentalists" in possession of nuclear weapons after China said it was reticent to join the West in imposing stricter sanctions on Iran.
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Meeting with Gao on Thursday, Rivlin acknowledged that China had requested time to review the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report on Iran's progressing nuclear program, but said "the attempt to gain time when there is not time is deceptive."
Rivlin added: "China is approached the status of a superpower. We believe that if China also joins the movement to sanction Iran, it will be effective."
The Chinese envoy responded, saying "China is a very responsible nation. Our position vis-a-vis Iran is well known. We are against nuclear armament."
"We are conducting a thorough investigation of the IAEA report. We will consider the findings and then make our decision," Gao said.
China's Foreign Ministry said earlier Thursday that sanctions cannot
"fundamentally" resolve the Iran nuclear dispute, after Western leaders
urged expanded sanctions against Iran over a UN watchdog report that
Tehran has worked to design atom bombs.
"We always believe that dialogue and cooperation is the right way to
solve the Iranian nuclear issue. Sanctions cannot fundamentally solve
the issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
"The pressing task now is all parties concerned step up diplomatic efforts," Hong added.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in a report this week that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic weapon.
"We hope the IAEA will be fair and objective, and actively committed to clarifying the salient issues through cooperation with Iran," he said. "This is the pressing task at this stage."
The Chinese spokesman's remarks underscored the tough task facing
Western governments who hope to win Beijing's backing for tougher United
Nations sanctions on Iran.
But Hong's words fell short of an outright no.
Beijing has said sanctions are not a "fundamental" answer before, when
it ultimately voted for UN Security Council resolutions imposing
sanctions on Iran for its disputed nuclear activities.
China, which has kept close ties with Iran, has also backed past UN
Security Council resolutions criticizing Iran's position on nuclear
issues and authoring limited sanctions.
Iran is China's third-largest crude oil supplier, shipping 20.3 million
tons in the first nine months of the year, up by almost a third on the
same period last year, according to Chinese data.
China has repeatedly resisted Western proposals for sanctions that could
seriously curtail its energy and economic ties with Iran. As one of the
Security Council's five permanent members, China holds the power to
veto any resolutions.
China has also denounced the United States and European Union for
imposing their own separate sanctions on Iran, and said they should not
take steps reaching beyond the UN resolutions.
Spokesman Hong warned on Wednesday against turmoil in the Middle East from action over Iran's nuclear program.