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China: Iran's New Best Friend

Following this week's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report concluding that Tehran appears to be well on its way to developing the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear weapon, the next step for world powers is to seek tougher sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.

But meaningful restrictive measures are not likely to happen, say many analysts, considering China's close relationship with Iran, in part to satisfy China's great thirst for oil. Today, Chinese and Russian diplomats announced that they believe no new sanctions on Iran are necessary.

“The Chinese-Iranian relationship has, in fact, been deepening over the last few years,” notes Michael Singh, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration. The Chinese government not only dilutes the sanctions in the United Nations Security Council by sort of providing Iran with diplomatic cover, but it doesn't enforce the sanctions it even does agree to in the Security Council."

China is Iran's largest trading partner, and this year alone business between the two is estimated at $40 billion, enough of an incentive, say analysts, to block any meaningful Security Council action. Some in Congress are calling on the Obama administration to try and do more.

"What China's doing, as I understand, it is avoiding the kind of economic squeeze we want to put on Iran that could force it not to go forward on nuclear weapons and that's a disgrace and we ought to be much tougher with China than we've been," New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer told Fox News.

The influential and powerful senior senator blasted the Chinese, saying they "keep putting themselves first, they keep ignoring the danger to the world of their actions. They even ignore the danger to themselves in the long run, as long as they get a quick benefit in the short run. I think we need to be much tougher with China up and down the line. They are not a positive force in the world scene, whether it comes to Iran, trade, intellectual property or human rights.”

Walid Phares, a Fox News Middle East analyst, says "by not containing the Iranians we are allowing the Iranians to tell the Chinese that they have interest in backing them." He tells Fox News that "Beijing, by sustaining a sort of a support of any form to the Iranian regime, is basically damaging not just the national security of the United States with its own interests in the region, but in the long term they are damaging their own interests as well."

Yet a number of Chinese firms have been accused of secretly helping Iran build its nuclear program.

In New York, one Chinese company was indicted on 118 counts of providing illicit missile and nuclear technology to Tehran, while other Chinese companies have been sanctioned by the U.S and its allies for aiding the Iranians.

Michael Singh tells Fox News that "Chinese companies have been found supplying Iran with critical parts like carbon fiber, for example, for its centrifuges. In addition, China has been involved in Iran's ballistic missile program -- which remember, is part of a nuclear weapons program which is part of a nuclear weapons program, according to the IAEA reports. "

Yet the Chinese say they are doing nothing illegal.

Suzanne DiMaggio, Vice President of Global Policy Programs at the Asia Society in New York City, says "China has maintained this line for years now, and that is Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty and by virtue of that fact, has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes...but my understanding is there's still no smoking gun, there still won't be that –“aha”- moment, where we know Iran is weaponizing. So I think for the foreseeable future China will maintain its stance."

Di Maggio says China "has a very strong economic interest in maintaining relations with Tehran. First of all, China's thirst for oil is growing exponentially", so if it were to stop trading with Iran, she asks, "where is China going to go to continue to find suppliers of oil?"

A spokesman from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., told Fox News that the ambassador and his aides were away attending a conference in Hawaii and were not available or reachable for comment.

Eric Shawn is a New York-based anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He anchors "America's News Headquarters" on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET. and  “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.” He anchors frequently  during the week on the Fox News Channel and reports on politics, terrorism, and foreign affairs. Shawn has  provided live coverage from both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions since 1992.  In 2004 he led the Fox News investigative team that uncovered new evidence in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, based on the claims of hit-man Frank Sheeran.  Click here for more information on Eric Shawn.

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