China’s backing for sanctions on Iran still unclear

The US announcement that China is willing to discuss new sanctions against Iran is neither being denied nor confirmed by Beijing.

China went along with three previous UN sanctions resolutions, but had been opposed to a fourth round – and is still hoping for a diplomatic settlement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang hasn’t confirmed reports that China is willing to consider new sanctions, saying only that it was "concerned about the current situation."

China, which has traditionally opposed sanctions against Tehran, depends on oil-and gas-rich Iran for 11% of its energy needs and last year became Tehran's biggest trading partner, according to Iranian figures.

Beijing is a veto power-member of the UN Security Council, and changing its position on sanctions would be key to passing a resolution against Iran, which the Obama administration hopes to get through by the end of April.

While the details of the possible sanctions remain under discussion, proposals reportedly have included an arms embargo and a ban on new Iranian banks overseas and foreign banks in Iran.

Even if China does agree to sanctions against Tehran, Beijing is unlikely to agree to measures as harsh as the US and France would want, RT contributor Wayne Madsen believes.

“China won’t want to interfere in its energy business with Iran. The other thing is that even if they were to apply sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, it would have no affect on their nuclear program,” Madsen said.