China indicated Sunday that it is unlikely to be a helpful partner at the U.N. Security Council when it comes to imposing tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held a news conference in which he not only advocated more breathing room for the Islamic Republic, but chided the Obama administration for unrelated moves that he said set back bilateral ties.


These included the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan and the recent visit to the White House by the Dalai Lama, which Yang said "caused a serious disturbance to the China-U.S ties and posed difficulty to the cooperation between the two countries."

Less than two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that diplomacy had "made a lot of progress" toward getting China on board with Iran sanctions.

"Our very clear commitment to engagement has created space for a lot of these countries to now consider supporting sanctions that they might not have otherwise, because we have demonstrated the strategic patience to exhaust the international efforts of convincing Iran to do the right thing without sanctions," Clinton said, predicting that a sanctions resolution would emerge at the U.N. in one to two months.

But Yang panned the idea Sunday as a way to solve the nuclear standoff. "As everyone knows, pressure and sanctions are not the fundamental way forward to resolving the Iran nuclear issue, and cannot fundamentally solve this issue," Yang said.

"Frankly speaking, there are some difficulties surrounding efforts to settle the Iranian nuclear issue at present, but we don't think diplomatic efforts have been exhausted."

Back on Jan. 29, Clinton said China risked isolation if it did not join the international effort to stop Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran claims is for peaceful energy purposes but has raised palpable fears about the country's weapons intentions.

"As we move away from the engagement track, which has not produced the result that some had hoped for, and move forward on the pressure and sanctions track, China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the Gulf, from which they receive a significant percentage of their oil supplies," Clinton said.

Iran's foreign ministry predicted Sunday that the international community would fail to reach agreement on new sanctions.

"Since the principle of sanctions regarding Iran's peaceful nuclear activity lacks a logical and legal basis and is being pursued with political intentions by some countries, it is natural that sanctions will not materialize," ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in remarks carried by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iran also announced Sunday it had started mass production of highly precise short-range cruise missiles.