US warns China on nuclear aid to Iran

THE CLINTON administration yesterday delivered a blunt warning to China to break off negotiations for the supply of civilian nuclear technology to Iran because of fears that it could be diverted for military purposes. The objection was lodged at a one-hour meeting in New York between the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, on the fringes of the opening session at the United Nations on the conference on extending the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), designed to block the spread of atomic weapons.

The US-China clash added unexpected friction to the start of the conference which was already promising to be highly charged, with the US and the other nuclear powers pushing for an indefinite, unconditional extension of the NPT and some of the non-aligned nations looking to attach conditions, including swifter progress towards nuclear disarmament.

Even as the conference began, there was still no agreement on the rules for voting on textension, with some non-aligned states pressing for a secret ballot. If the issue is not resolved quickly, some nations could even press for adjournment

Opening the debate, the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, joined in urging the nuclear states to move more quickly towards disarmament and nuclear-free status. "The most safe, sure and swift way to deal with the threat of nuclear arms is to do away with them in every regard. This should be our vision of the future . . . reduction and destruction of all nuclear weapons and the means to make them should be humanity's great common cause".

Mr Christopher stressed the continuing value of the NPT, terming it the "one of the most important treaties of all time". Acknowledging the concerns of the non-aligned countries, he added: "The purpose of the NPT is to preserve the security of all, not the nuclear weapons monopoly of a few. Nuclear weapons states have committed themselves to purse negotiations for nuclear disarmament, which remains our ultimate goal".

The disputed deal between Iran and China centres on the supply of two 300-megawatt pressurised water reactors and Chinese nuclear know-how. A similar transaction was announced between Iran and Russia in January, drawing strong US objections. While the deal might not violate international rules, because the reactors would be subject to international inspection, this had not calmed concern in Washington. "We feel that no nation ought to go forward with nuclear cooperation with Iran", Mr Christopher said. "This is not to single out China. This is a position we have taken with respect to major countries in the world".

Mr Qichen was adamant that China was not transgressing the rules: "We respect the view of the US, but what we have done is consistent with international practice."

Washington has been alarmed over Tehran's possible nuclear ambitions since Israel provided information last autumn suggesting that the Iran was stepping up efforts to purchase equipment for the manufacture of nuclear arms. The report, confirmed by the CIA, said Iran had gone on a nuclear shopping spree in Germany and Switzerland. It is not the first time the nuclear issue has clouded Sino-American relations. China supplied nuclear technology to Pakistan despite US objections.

At the conference, which is likely to last four weeks, the disputes over voting procedures are only a symptom of the underlying tensions between the nuclear haves and have-nots. By hoping to attach conditions to the NPT's renewals, the non-aligned states are seeking to maintain pressure on the nuclear states to continue progress towards complete disarmament as required in Article VI of the treaty.

As an alternative to the indefinite extension of the treaty, these countries, led by Venezuela, Mexico and Indonesia, may propose renewing it for a fixed period or periods. At the end of those periods, pressure could again be applied to the nuclear states finally to relinquish their weapons.

In seeking the right to take the final vote in secret, these states are apparently hoping to avoid being identified as going against America's will with the risk that that might carry of attracting reprisals such as downgraded diplomatic links or reduced aid.

Leading article, page 14

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...