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06/13/12

China Defiant on Iran Oil Purchases

By Stephanie Ho, VOA

BEIJING - The Chinese government has indicated it has no plans to change its position on oil purchases from Iran, a day after the United States left Beijing off a list of economies that are exempt from U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil imports.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin Tuesday rejected a question about whether China will reduce its oil imports from Iran and said these purchases are necessary.

China needs to import crude oil from Iran, Liu said, because of its economic development, describing it as "a completely legal" matter. China's purchase channels are normal, open and transparent and do not violate United Nations resolutions or harm the interests of any other party, he added.

Beijing's defiant tone on the matter follows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement on Monday of a list of seven more economies exempt from new American sanctions targeting Iran's oil trade.

The countries on the list have proven they had significantly reduced the amount of oil they buy from Iran, said Clinton.

China is the world's largest buyer of Iranian oil and is the last remaining major importer exposed to possible penalties when the U.S. sanctions are imposed, likely later this month.

When asked if China and the United States are still in discussion about the sanctions, the spokesman would only say that Beijing has clearly informed Washington of its position.

He repeated his country's opposition not only to one country imposing unilateral sanctions on another country, but also trying to impose those sanctions on third countries as well.

China's purchases of oil from Iran declined earlier this year, but analysts say the cutback was the result of a price dispute. Purchases went back up in April and have continued.

The United States and the European Union believe Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, and so have been increasingly targeting it with sanctions.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly civilian.

Related Story:

Sinopec turns down cut-price Iran crude - source - Chinese refiner Sinopec has turned down offers of bargain Iranian crude and will cut imports by up to a fifth this year, a senior Chinese oil executive said, insisting ties with the United States were more important than cut-price oil as the West squeezes Tehran over its nuclear programme. -Reuters

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