US President Barack Obama has asked his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to work together on the Iranian nuclear stand-off, as Washington pushes for imposition of early sanctions against a defiant Tehran.
Mr. Obama also welcomed M.r Hu’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit later this month, saying it would be an “important opportunity for them to address their shared interest in stopping nuclear proliferation and protecting against nuclear terrorism”.
Mr. Obama spoke to the Chinese President for an hour late Thursday night (local time) during which, the two discussed Iran, G-20 and the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, the White House said in a statement.
The Chinese President called for “healthy and stable” relations with the US amid strains between the two countries over Tibet, arms sales to Taiwan and the Google spat.
However, the Chinese leader kept up his country’s hard stance on Tibet and Taiwan, saying these issues concern China’s sovereignty and core interest, a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Jintao also discussed the importance of developing a positive bilateral relationship, the White House said.
The phone call between the two leaders happened when Mr. Obama was returning to Washington from Boston and comes as top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is in Beijing to discuss possible UN sanctions against his country over its disputed nuclear programme.
After landing at Andrews, Air Force One was held for 10 minutes at the end of the runway so that Mr. Obama could finish up the phone call.
“President Obama underscored the importance of working together to ensure that Iran lives up to its international obligations,” the statement said.
The telephonic conversation comes in the backdrop of Mr. Obama’s recent statement that he wants tough new set of sanctions against Iran to be in place within “weeks”.
“My hope is that we are going to get this (sanctions against Iran) done this spring. I’m interested in seeing that regime in place in weeks,” Mr. Obama had said on Wednesday.
During the conversation, Mr. Obama also emphasised the importance of the US and China along with other major economies implementing the G20 commitments designed to produce balanced and sustainable growth, the White House said.
Earlier in the day, the White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said the US has an important relationship with China, and two countries had their share of disagreements.
“I think that China understands that it’s in their best interests that there isn’t a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and that’s obviously something that we’re going to be working on,” Mr. Burton said.
China’s participation at the highest possible level reflects China’s concern as well about nuclear security in the future, the State Department said.
With China joining the UN talks on Iran sanctions, Mr. Burton said this is a very important step.
”... the President thinks that this spring we’re going to be able to be in a place where there’s an agreement of those nations to apply real pressure to Iran,” Mr. Burton said.
Meanwhile, the State Department spokesman said China has indicated a willingness to be a full participant as the UN Security Council members go through the specifics of what would be in a resolution.
“China has supported every sanctions regime in the past regarding Iran. And China has said clearly that it desires a diplomatic solution to this,” Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P J Crowley said.
“So to the extent that the ongoing recalcitrance of Iran, its unwillingness to come forward and engage in any significant way, China now recognises, as we do, that part of this diplomatic effort, is the continuing offer of engagement, but it’s also the fact that we are now at a point where we need to consider very specific steps that put pressure on the Iranian Government and demonstrate to them that there will be a consequence for their failure,” he said.