US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that China agrees Iran must not become a nuclear weapons power and that the fellow Security Council member will play a role in forging sanctions against the Islamic republic at the United Nations.
In the Canadian capital for a meeting of top diplomats from the Group of Eight leading industrialized democracies, Clinton said that despite China's general opposition to international sanctions, it will contribute to the process at the UN.
The US is leading the charge to penalize Iran for refusing to prove that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. China is a permanent member of the Security Council and can block new sanctions with a veto, so its support for sanctions will be crucial.
"China is part of the consultative group that has been unified all along the way, which has made it very clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable to the international community," Clinton said in an interview with Canadian television.
"I think as the weeks go forward and we begin the hard work of trying to come up with a Security Council resolution, China will be involved, they will be making their suggestions," she said.
President Barack Obama met Monday at the White House with China's new ambassador to the US, Zhang Yesui. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama stressed the need for the two countries to cooperate "on critical global issues, including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth."
China has been holding up consideration of new sanctions, saying diplomacy must be given time. But last week it appeared to soften its position in a conference call among senior officials from the six nations working most closely on the matter, according to diplomats.
Clinton did not address the specifics of any contribution that China might make but said she believed agreement could be reached.
"We're just going to have to, as in any effort, we're going to have to try to come to some consensus and we're in the middle of that process," Clinton said after answering flatly "no" when asked if the world would have to start living with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Iran will be a major topic at Clinton's meetings in Canada with her counterparts from the other G-8 nations. The alliance groups the US with Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Those discussions were beginning with a working dinner Monday and continuing in a formal session Tuesday.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful means only. Western powers believe the country is working to produce a nuclear weapon, as Iranian officials have refused demands to come clean about their intentions.
Russia, which like China is typically opposed to sanctions, has said it is willing to consider new penalties and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will see Clinton in Ottawa to consider the issue further.