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g8 canada clinton 311.(Photo by: AP)
G-8 nations call for Iran sanctions
Canadian PM urges "heightened focus," pressure on Teheran, China, N. Korea.
OTTAWA — Top diplomats from the world's leading economies increased pressure on Iran on Tuesday over its suspect nuclear program, but the main audience for the tough talk seems to be a country not represented at the exclusive Group of Eight economic club: China.

Opening a conference of foreign ministers from the eight industrialized nations, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Iran must halt its nuclear enrichment activities and comply with demands to come clean about its atomic program.

On behalf of the ministers, Harper urged "a heightened focus and stronger coordinated action, including sanctions if necessary, on the Iranian regime." He said "Teheran must halt its nuclear enrichment activities and engage in peaceful dialogue."

He also called on North Korea to return to multinational talks aimed at getting it to abandon nuclear weapons. He said Tuesday's meeting was being held during "a particularly difficult time" in the international community's dealings with Iran and North Korea.

"Both are countries whose actions contravene their international obligations," Harper said. "Both use violence and intimidation to deprive their citizens' fundamental rights, both are serious threats to global security."

With Iran refusing to comply, the message is largely directed at China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council that is not a member of the G-8.

China, a vocal opponent of sanctions, wields veto power in the United Nations Security Council, and until recently it had balked at the mere suggestion of taking additional punitive steps against Iran. That, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested, is now changing.

In an interview with Canadian television on Monday, Clinton said China shared the view of the US, its European allies and Russia that "a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable."

"I think as the weeks go forward and we begin the hard work of trying to come up with a Security Council resolution, China will be involved, they will be making their suggestions," she said.

Publicly, China reiterated its stance that the countries should seek a solution through negotiations, not new sanctions.

"We hope relevant parties could fully show their flexibility and make further efforts toward a proper resolution of this issue through diplomatic means," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday at a regular news briefing.

China opposes nuclear weapons for Iran, but said the country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Iran is already under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions and China has been holding up consideration of a fourth, saying diplomacy must be given more time to work. But last week it softened its position in a conference call among senior officials from the six nations working most closely on the matter, according to diplomats.

A senior US official told reporters traveling with Clinton that the Chinese "have said now that they will engage on the elements of a sanctions resolution." The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing diplomatic negotiation.

In Washington, meanwhile, the White House said US President Barack Obama met Monday with China's incoming ambassador to the United States. It said Obama had stressed to the envoy the need for the two countries "to work together and with the international community on critical global issues including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth."
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