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NUKEWARS
Iran taking steps to blunt future sanctions: US spy chief
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 2, 2010


China says still room for negotiations on Iran
Beijing (AFP) Feb 2, 2010 - China said Tuesday there was still room for negotiations to resolve the standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear programme, after Washington urged Beijing to support sanctions on Tehran. "There is still room for diplomatic efforts," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters. "China always believes that dialogue and negotiations are the best way to resolve this issue," he said, after warning that Beijing's cooperation with Washington on international issues could suffer over US arms sales to Taiwan. His comments came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday upped the pressure on China to recognise the threat from Iran's nuclear programme and join international calls for sanctions. The United States and its Western allies fear Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment programme -- a charge denied by Tehran. As a close ally of Iran with oil interests in the country, China -- a permanent member of the UN Security Council -- is reluctant to support sanctions.

Six powers to talk in a few days on Iran: US
Washington (AFP) Feb 2, 2010 - The United States said Tuesday it hopes to consult with China and four other powers in a few days about Iran's nuclear ambitions in a bid to narrow the gap with Beijing over the need for sanctions. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley highlighted the importance of more talks with the P5-plus-1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France -- plus Germany. Washington has communicated "very forcefully to China that this is an issue ... that's important to them, just as much as it's important to us and to others in the region," Crowley told reporters. "We do not have the same view of the urgency of the situation. We probably do not, at this point, have the same view regarding the ... steps that we think are ... necessary at this particular time," he said. "But that's why we're having this ongoing engagement, as we did in New York recently, as we will in the upcoming days, you know, when our P5-plus-1 political directors have a chance to consult again," Crowley said.

The P5-plus-1 met in New York on January 16 but reached no decision on further sanctions against Iran. China in particular has resisted sanctions. A senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the political directors of the State Department and respective foreign ministries would consult in a few days either directly or in a conference call. "We expect to get together in some form in the next week or so," he said. China's foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday there was still room for negotiations to resolve the standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear program. Ma had earlier warned that Beijing's cooperation with Washington on international issues could suffer over US arms sales to Taiwan. The United States and its Western allies fear Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program -- a charge denied by Tehran. Photo courtesy AFP.

Iran has taken steps to blunt possible future global and US sanctions, notably seeking out new sources of gasoline in China and Venezuela, the top US intelligence official said Tuesday.

US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told key lawmakers that Tehran was "keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons" but that existing sanctions had harmed the Islamic republic's struggling economy.

And Blair said Iran's leaders weighed "Iran's security, prestige and influence" in deciding how to proceed on the country's nuclear program and said the world still had leverage in the standoff.

"We continue to judge Iran's nuclear decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran," he said.

But "Iran has made contingency plans for dealing with future additional international sanctions by identifying potential alternative suppliers of gasoline -- including China and Venezuela," said Blair.

"Tehran also has resorted to doing business with small, non-Western banks and dealing in non-US currency for many financial transactions," he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing on global threats to US interests.

Blair said Iran's opposition press had reported Iranian forces were involved in smuggling in crude oil "as a way of both skirting and profiting from sanctions.

"Despite these activities and Iran's gasoline subsidy cuts, which could in part serve to mitigate some effects of the embargo, we nonetheless judge that sanctions will have a negative impact on Iran's recovery from its current economic slowdown," he said.

His comments came as the US Congress weighed a sweeping package of sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to freeze its suspect nuclear program, including steps meant to hurt Tehran's ability to import refined petroleum goods like gasoline.

The United States and its Western allies fear Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program -- a charge denied by Tehran.

As a close ally of Iran with oil interests in the country, China -- a permanent member of the UN Security Council -- is reluctant to support sanctions.

earlier related report
Iran slams US missile deployment in Gulf
Tehran (AFP) Feb 2, 2010 - Parliament speaker Ali Larijani Tuesday slammed plans by the US to beef up defences in the Gulf against potential Iranian missile attacks, insisting the Islamic republic is no threat to its neighbours.

"America's new puppet show for protecting and implementing security in the region is nothing but a new political trick to pave the way for its presence at others' expense," Larijani said in comments to the house carried by the state broadcaster.

"American officials do not realise that they are the problems in the region. The more equipment you bring in, the more it worries the countries where they are deployed," he added.

"Has Iran ever committed any aggression against any neighbours or the region?" he asked.

Larijani was responding to reports that the US administration is placing specialised ships with missile-targeting capabilities off Iran's coast, and anti-missile systems in at least four Gulf states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, accused the West of seeking to weaken Gulf countries in a meeting on Tuesday with the visiting Qatari crown prince, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

"Westerners do not want the region to be secure or the regional countries to have friendly ties," he was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster.

"They have always tried to keep the region's countries weak. Their life depends on creating division and insecurity," he said. But "fortunately there is a common perception by Tehran and Qatar of the enemies' plots."

ISNA news agency said Iran's Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi also met the Qatari prince and said Tehran was ready to "expand its defence and military cooperation with Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries."

"Iran's desired model is maintaining security collectively and we believe that all regional countries should be committed to preserving stability and security in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz."

ISNA said Sheikh Tamim also expressed a desire to expand military ties with Tehran.

Iran has carried out frequent war games in the Gulf and threatened to hit Western targets if Iran's nuclear sites come under attack by the United States or Israel.

The country is locked in a standoff with the West over its controversial nuclear programme, which many world powers believe is masking a weapons drive. Iran has vehemently denied this.

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US pressures China on Iran sanctions
Paris (AFP) Jan 29, 2010
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday upped the pressure on China to recognise the threat from Iran's nuclear programme and join international calls for sanctions. Washington and other powers will turn up the heat on China as they "move away from the engagement track, which has not produced the results that some had hoped for, and move towards the pressure and sanctions track," she ... read more


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