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Best To Wait For China On Iran, French UN Envoy Says

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- World powers discussing possible new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program should take as much time as necessary to secure China's backing, France's UN ambassador has said.

"It's totally essential to work with the Chinese, even if it means waiting a bit," French envoy Gerard Araud told an audience of academics, students, and diplomats at New York's Columbia University.

He declined to provide any details on negotiations on a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran currently under way among the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China.

Unlike Russia, China has indicated that it is very reluctant to pursue new sanctions against Tehran, with which both Beijing and Moscow have close economic ties.

Araud added that Russia and China had supported three Iran sanctions resolutions and were committed to tackling Iran and its defiance of five Security Council resolutions demanding that Tehran halt its nuclear enrichment program.

"I wouldn't consider dumping China," he said.

Araud acknowledged that the five veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council members and Germany did not always share the same views on the best strategy for dealing with Iran.

"Of course there are nuances between the members," he said, adding that what bound them together was their shared concern about Tehran's nuclear program.

"This common concern is still there," he said.

Western diplomats on the Security Council say that the United States, Britain, France, and Germany hope to have an agreement with Russia and China on the basic elements for a new sanctions resolution by the end of this month so that the 15-nation council could vote on it by the end of March.

But such a timetable is highly ambitious given China's reluctance to take further punitive steps against Iran.