American efforts to build momentum for a fresh round of sanctions against Iran have hit a snag following the visit to Riyadh by U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

On Friday, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) denied reports that Riyadh had agreed during talks with Mr. Gates, to influence China to support a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. “This issue [about Iran sanctions] is not true, it was not discussed during the visit of the Secretary of Defence who was in the kingdom recently,” said SPA citing an official source.

China has so far been firm in proposing that instead of sanctions, negotiations should be way forward in addressing concerns regarding Iran's nuclear programme. At a press conference held on the sidelines of China's National People's Congress, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had said: “As everyone knows, pressure and sanctions are not the fundamental way forward to resolving the Iran nuclear issue, and cannot fundamentally solve this issue.” Saudi Arabia, also a part of the G-20 group of nations, has emerged as the third regional heavyweight, to publicly signal that it may not be on the same page with the United States on Iran. Earlier this month, speaking ahead of the visit to Brazil by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also counselled negotiations with Iran. “It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall,” Mr. Silva told reporters hours before meeting Ms.Clinton. Turkey has also opposed sanctions as a means of dealing with Iran. As Mr. Gates rounded up his visit to the region, Iran questioned the rationale for the presence of U.S. forces in West Asia. “What are you doing in our region? Why are you deploying military forces here,” said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday.

“If you think military deployment will help you seize the oil in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf, I must tell you that the young generation of the Middle East [West Asia] will cut your hands off from the oil reserves of the Persian Gulf,” Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency quoted the President as saying.

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