China's Iran stance worries US, Israel

Treasury official, FM discuss urging financial institutions to cut Teheran ties.

Iran nuclear new 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Iran nuclear new 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Stuart Levey, the US Treasury official spearheading efforts to hit Iran economically, met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Tel Aviv on Thursday to discuss the ongoing efforts to get the world's financial institutions to sever ties with Teheran. Israeli officials said Levey's work, which is conducted outside of the UN framework, was important because it could be pursued without facing obstacles placed in the way by Russia and China, whose support is necessary for UN sanctions. They agreed with US assessments that China is the most reluctant UN Security Council member when it comes to supporting expanded sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. Levey, the US undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, has spent the last couple of years trying to convince major financial institutions in the US and around the world to employ financial sanctions against Teheran. Levey's steps are designed as a track running in parallel to - but independent of - sanctions leveled by the UN. Israeli officials believe this has been effective in ensuring that the Iranian business class feels the cost of Teheran's march toward a nuclear capability. Levey's discussion with Livni took place as a draft resolution calling for a third round of sanctions against Iran was circulating among UN Security Council states. The resolution is not expected to be taken up by the Security Council until September at the earliest, according to Israeli officials. "Israel supports a hardening of sanctions already imposed," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said before Livni's meeting with Levey. "Diplomacy must be firm and speak with one voice in order to succeed." Regev said Iran "must understand that business as usual cannot continue while it is pursuing its nuclear program." Levey was last here in March, and before that in May 2006. Israeli officials on Thursday agreed with a statement made by US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns in Washington on Monday to the effect that China was lagging behind Russia in support for UN measures against Iran. "The Chinese have been less enthusiastic to push forward the sanctions in general than we and the Europeans and even the Russians have," Burns said. "What we have said to the Chinese is this: We need to speak with one voice. And if a country is out there, a big country, a powerful country like Iran seeking a nuclear weapons capability against the will of everybody else in the international system, it's your job, China, to help us push back against the Iranians." An Israeli official said, "It would be true to say that the major players in this issue are more mindful of the need to engage China than in the past." According to Israeli officials, while in the past the belief was that Russia could get China to support sanctions, now there are more specific Chinese interests with regard to Iran that make getting Chinese support for these issues "more of a fight in the tug of war."