China pushes for softening Iran sanctions proposal

UNITED NATIONS — China has proposed changes to a U.S.-drafted resolution that would impose tough new sanctions against Iran to pressure the Islamic Republic to start negotiations on its suspect nuclear program, U.N. diplomats said Wednesday.
The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private, indicated the Chinese amendments would weaken the U.S. sanctions proposal. China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said last week that Beijing wants to focus on "diplomacy" rather than harsh sanctions.
China, which relies on Iran for 11 percent of its energy needs and last year became Tehran's biggest trading partner, agreed only after several months to discuss a fourth round of sanctions with the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
The United States and its allies are trying to rally support for new sanctions over Iran's refusal to stop uranium enrichment, fearing Tehran will use the process to build a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed only at generating electricity.
According to diplomats familiar with the talks, the Western-backed sanctions resolution would target Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls companies and organizations that have links to weapons proliferation.
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