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China defends Iran oil, warns on nuclear aims

Beijing, January 19, 2012

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao defended his country's extensive oil trade with Iran against Western sanctions pressure in comments published on Thursday, and yet also warned Tehran against any effort to acquire nuclear weapons.

Wen spoke on Wednesday at the end of a six-day visit to the Middle East, against a backdrop of tensions over possible US
sanctions on nations that do energy trade with Iran, which Western powers say is focused on developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has insisted its nuclear goals are peaceful, and in late December threatened to punish the latest Western sanctions by choking off oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for much of the Middle East's oil exports.

'China adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons,' said Wen, and he warned against potential confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz. Beijing is usually much more coy in public about saying Iran could want nuclear arms.

Speaking at a news conference in Doha, Wen also took aim at both potential threats to China's oil imports: the US
sanctions pressure and the Hormuz tensions.

'I also want to clearly point out that China's oil trade with Iran is normal trade activity,' he said in response to a question about US and European efforts to curtail Iranian oil exports and revenues, according to a transcript on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website.

'Legitimate trade should be protected, otherwise the world economic order would fall into turmoil,' he added. But Wen shrugged off worry about China's oil needs.

'I don't have this or that worry about China's oil supplies, and this time I didn't discuss this issue with the leaders of each country,' he told the news conference. Wen visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.    

The Chinese leader's comments laid bare the tricky path Beijing is trying to steer between pressure from Washington and its allies and rival expectations from Iran, which looks to China as a sympathetic Third World power and a big oil customer.

Wen's warning was not the first time China has openly stated its opposition to Iran possibly developing nuclear weapons; in 2010, the foreign ministry made the point at least twice. - Reuters

Tags: China | Iran | Nuclear | defence | hormuz | oil trade |


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