Geithner gets cold shoulder on iran

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am


State media coverage of Chinese leaders' talks with visiting US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner yesterday conspicuously failed to mention any discussion of Iran's nuclear ambitions, despite pressure from the United States for China to back financial sanctions on Tehran.

This probably means that while the leaders listened to the Americans' arguments, China is unlikely to go along with the US-led sanctions any time soon.

Despite its reluctance to endorse the US campaign against Iran, China feted Geithner, visiting as special representative of US President Barack Obama, ahead of the expected visit of Vice-President Xi Jinping to the US next month. Geithner met Xi, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.

One of the top items on Geithner's agenda was to get Beijing's support for tougher US sanctions on foreign banks that have business with the central bank of Iran. The US accuses Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

Wen will begin a trip to three Middle Eastern countries on Saturday as tensions over Iran raise concerns that China's oil imports may be affected.

Washington was 'in the early stages of a broad global diplomatic effort to take advantage of this new legislation to significantly intensify the pressure on Iran', Agence France-Presse quoted a senior US official as saying in Beijing yesterday.

'We are telling them [the Chinese] what's important to us and they are listening.'

But remarks by Xi, Wen and Li reported by state media focused on Sino-US ties, without mentioning Iran. The foreign ministry said China's energy co-operation with Iran did not violate UN Security Council resolutions.

'To place one country's domestic law above international law and press others to obey is not reasonable,' ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said .

Professor Jia Qingguo from Peking University's school of international studies said: 'China attaches importance to Geithner's visit and Chinese leaders seriously listen to his opinion. But that does not mean China needs to impose sanctions on a particular country just because the US does not like it.' Zha Xiaogang, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said Beijing would not bow to US pressure, and China needed to consider its investment interests in Iran.

In his meeting with Geithner, Wen called on both countries to thoroughly consider each other's core interests to enhance mutual trust and properly settle differences.

Xi said both countries should implement the consensus regarding bilateral ties reached between Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, and called for more mutual respect.

'Both sides should settle disputes through consultations on an equal basis rather than politicising economic issues,' Xi told Xinhua.

Li made similar calls, saying better co-operation boosted development.

Geithner also emphasised Sino-US strategic relations when meeting Xi. 'On economic growth, on financial stability around the world, on non-proliferation, we have what we view as a very strong co-operative relationship,' he said.