Thu, August 02, 2012
World > Americas

Hot potato of Iran grills Washington

2012-08-02 02:46:52 GMT2012-08-02 10:46:52(Beijing Time)  SINA English

Iran has in a sense become a forever hot potato for the U.S., who is almost at its wits’ end in dealing with the “defiant” Islamic Republic. With the incurable headache, Washington is going out of its way to device ways, some unbelievably absurd.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said US assurances about military options cannot halt Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

He spoke after the visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated Washington's line that military action was an option against Iran.

Netanyahu told the Pentagon chief: "You yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program.”

But, Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is for civilian energy uses.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered to slap new economic sanctions against Iran's energy sector and some financial firms, including a Chinese bank.

Penalties will be meted out against the Chinese Kunlun bank that the Obama administration says has helped Iran evade international sanctions. Kunlun will be unable to do business with any U.S. banks as a result.

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry yesterday urged the United States to rescind sanctions imposed on a Chinese bank over its transactions with Iran, saying the move damaged China-US relations.

Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement that China expressed its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition and would lodge an official protest with Washington.

"We ask the US to correct the mistake, withdraw its sanctions against Bank of Kunlun, which is controlled by a major Chinese oil company, and stop harming Chinese interest and hurting bilateral relations," Qin said.

Founded as a municipal commercial bank in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Kunlun is controlled by state-owned China National Petroleum Corp, which invested more than 5.8 billion yuan (US$920 million) in the bank between 2009 and 2010.

Qin said China and Iran maintain normal relations and have open and transparent collaborations in energy and trade, none of which had anything to do with Iran's nuclear program nor violated international rules.

Qin repeated China's stance against nuclear proliferation.

The US sanctions followed criticism from Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney that the White House was failing to act strongly enough to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The US remains committed to finding a diplomatic resolution to the standoff with Iran, but is also determined to step up the pressure, US President Barack Obama said in a statement accompanying his executive order authorizing the sanctions.

"If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences," he said.

The new sanctions target foreign banks that, the US says, handle transactions for Iranian oil or handle large transactions from the National Iranian Oil Company or Naftiran Intertrade Company, two key players in Iran's oil trade.

That builds on oil trade sanctions signed into law in December that prompted buyers in Japan, South Korea and India to significantly cut purchases to avoid penalties. China also cut purchases from Iran earlier this year due to a dispute over contract terms.

China's swift and angry reaction highlighted its insistence that its trade and energy deals with Iran should not be hurt by the nuclear stand-off.

"The US has invoked domestic law to impose sanctions on a Chinese financial institution, and this is a serious violation of international rules that harms Chinese interests," Qin said.

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