After months of reluctance to participate in sanctions against Iran for its nuclear weapons program, Chinese leaders are now agreeing in concept to sanctions, White House officials said today.
"This is a substantive and positive step forward," a national security official told ABC News.
The details of what the sanctions regime will consist of have not yet been negotiated, but White House officials said it was significant that Chinese President Hu Jintao has instructed the Chinese delegation to the United Nations to begin working with the US Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Susan Rice, on a set of sanctions.
China was the last of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to agree to sanctions. The other four — the US, UK, France, and Russia — have previously agreed upon sanctions. Sanctions can be vetoed by any of the five permanent members.
Jeff Bader, the National Security Staff senior director for Asian Affairs, told reporters in a conference call that during their meeting this afternoon, President Hu and President Obama "agreed to instruct their delegations to work with the P5-plus-1" — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany — "and U.N. Security Council representatives on a sanctions resolution. The resolution will make clear to Iran the costs of pursuing a nuclear program that violates Iran’s obligations and responsibilities."
Bader said "the discussion was as sign of international unity on Iran….The meeting today is another sign of international unity on this issue."
Bader said that the sanctions would be worked on in the coming "days and weeks."