U.S. to Aid China If Iran Chokes Oil Supply

WASHINGTON (AFP), Apr. 13, 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to help keep fuel flowing to China if Iran cuts off supplies in retaliation for joining a drive for UN sanctions, The New York times reported Tuesday.

The pledge came in Monday talks between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao as the U.S. leader sought to win Chinese support for the gathering drive to impose new UN sanctions on Tehran, the report said.

China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has been reluctant to commit to new sanctions, partly because it is a major trading partner with the Islamic Republic which is a key supplier of oil to Beijing.

Obama assured Hu that he was "sensitive to China's energy needs," the Times said, adding that the U.S. administration had already sounded out other oil producers to help reassure Beijing that there would be no drop in supply.

White House adviser on Iran Dennis Ross travelled to Saudia Arabia last year to seek a pledge that it would step in to help China if needed, the paper said.

Iran was the third-largest crude oil supplier to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola, with shipments reaching 23.15 million tons.

"We'll look for ways to make sure that if there are sanctions they won't be negatively affected," a senior White House official told the Times.

The paper also reported that the U.S. president had laid out details of a proposed Security Council sanctions package to Hu -- the fourth that would be imposed on the Islamic Republic over its suspect enrichment program.

The measures would include denying Iran access to international credit, choking off foreign investment in its energy sector and slapping restrictions on companies owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the paper said.

"Until two weeks ago the Chinese would not discuss a sanctions resolution at all," the official said.

The White House emerged from Monday's 90-minute talks, held on the sidelines of a nuclear summit here, saying the Chinese delegation had agreed to work with them on a securing new UN sanctions against Iran.

But China Tuesday reaffirmed its position that sanctions weren't the answer to the stand-off.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China backs a "dual-track strategy" -- continued dialogue with Tehran while considering the possibility of sanctions if that fails to halt sensitive nuclear work.

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