The Globe and Mail
Monitoreo de la prensa canadiense
Embajada de México en Canadá
Fecha: Viernes 12 de febrero de 2010
Reportero(a): Steven Chase
Canada seeks China’s help on Iran nuclear file
China has influence on the Islamic regime, but pressing Beijing to impose sanctions on Iran
is a risky manoeuvre for Ottawa
Canada is publicly prodding China to use its influence to rein in Iran’s nuclear-weapon
ambitions as worried nations ready tougher sanctions over Tehran’s uranium advances.
CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said yesterday he
would like China to “step up to the plate” and put more pressure on the Iranian
regime to temper its nuclear threat.
“I think China should step up to the plate and do something here,” Foreign Affairs
Minister Lawrence Cannon said yesterday.
Publicly calling out China – the most recalcitrant player on the Iran file – is never an
easy diplomatic move. It’s particularly challenging for Canada given the Harper
government’s recent attempts at rapprochement with Beijing, after years of frosty relations.
The Prime Minister visited China in 2009 to repair and rebuild ties.
The challenge for Canada, and other countries, is persuading China to spend political
capital with Iran in light of Tehran’s decision to move uranium enrichment one step closer to
Mr. Cannon said China is well placed, “because of its proximity and its close relations
with Iran, to play a determining role in convincing Iran to conform to the international
This week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared his country a “nuclear
state,” announcing it had produced its first batch of more highly enriched uranium. He
insisted, however, that this was for a research reactor.
The announcement has alarmed the world community, which has largely lost clout with
Iran as trade relations with the Islamic republic have waned under sanctions. The United
States unilaterally introduced new sanctions against Tehran Wednesday, and Finland’s
foreign minister – visiting Ottawa yesterday – said the European Union would also follow
suit if the United Nations doesn’t.
China, which has bucked the sanction trend and instead enlarged trade with Iran, is the
only country with measurable influence on Tehran, said Houchang Hassan-Yari, an Iran
expert at Royal Military College in Kingston. Two-way commerce is now about $36-billion
(U.S.) and China is Iran’s largest trading partner.
“The Chinese are using the Iranian isolation in order to capture the market there and it
might be difficult for them to bend under pressure,” Prof. Hassan-Yari said.
But Wenran Jiang, a Chinese expert at the University of Alberta, said comments like
Mr. Cannon’s feed into a growing fear in Beijing that China is being set up to take the
blame if Iran can’t be persuaded to bow to international pressure.
“In other words, China becomes the scapegoat if the Iran issue isn’t moving forward,”
Prof. Jiang said.
China doesn’t seem keen to do what Canada and other countries are asking. Prof.
Jiang said that China disapproves of a hard-line, sanction-driven approach to Iran and feels
the West is overstating its economic clout with Tehran.
Canada has been a harsh critic of Iran’s nuclear program, its human-rights violations
and Mr. Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic blasts at Israel.
To date, Ottawa has imposed two sets of UN-mandated sanctions against Tehran,
including freezing the assets of key figures associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Ottawa has warned it will do more if needed, in concert with allies.
Canada has signalled it will use the international pulpit it gets as chair of the Group of
Eight this year to push for action on Iran. Prime Minister Stephen Harper discussed the
matter yesterday with his fellow G8 leader, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Prof. Hassan-Yari of RMC said he’s worried that Iran is using its uranium enrichment as
a provocation to divert attention from its abysmal human-rights record. There are three
major points of friction between Canada and Iran:
Iran’s progress toward developing nuclear weapons, including its announcement this
week that it’s further enriched uranium, bringing it considerably closer to possessing
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rhetoric: In 2005, he called for
Israel to be “wiped off the map.” In 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper boycotted a
United Nations speech by the Iranian leader.
Iran’s human-rights abuses against demonstrators and dissidents, as well as its
treatment of Iranian-Canadians. Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, for
instance, died in Iranian custody in 2003. Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari says
he was regularly beaten and threatened with execution while imprisoned there in 2009.