New Iran sanctions: A question of when, not if

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - China is slowly and reluctantly falling in line with Russia and four Western powers by backing the idea of new U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, but Beijing wants any new steps to be weak.

The breakthrough, Western diplomats and analysts say, came this week after China ended months of delays by agreeing to enter into serious discussions with five other world powers on how to draft a new Iran sanctions resolution to be presented to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council.

But the battle for the full support of China and Russia, which have close business ties with Iran, has only begun.

"The fact that China agreed to engage is a success," said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "I don't think anyone's making any bets on how long this process will take. But it looks like it's no longer a question of whether but when."

Fitzpatrick said U.S. President Barack Obama's success in ending months of deadlock to get a breakthrough deal with Russia on a replacement for the Cold War-era START nuclear arms reduction treaty would give Russian-U.S. ties a boost and help keep Moscow on board for new Iran sanctions.

Diplomats from the six countries involved in the sanctions negotiations -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia -- say the four Western powers would like a resolution adopted next month, ahead of a month-long U.N. conference on the nuclear No... >>>

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