Beijing said Tuesday China’s purchases of Iranian oil were legal and transparent, after the United States refused to exempt it from tough new sanctions.
Washington announced Monday that tough new sanctions that penalize foreign financial institutions would not be imposed on seven emerging economies, including India, after those countries cut back on the amount of oil they buy from Iran.
But China -- which depends heavily on crude from Iran and elsewhere to power its giant economy and has worked to shield Tehran from mounting U.N. restrictions -- still faces punishment.
“China is opposed to one country imposing unilateral sanctions on another country in accordance with domestic law, let alone imposing sanctions on a third country,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in response to the U.S. move.
"”China has imported crude oil from Iran through normal channels which is open and transparent, they do not violate relevant Security Council resolutions.
“We believe this is completely legal and fair.”
The United States will from June 28 impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions for their transactions with Iran’s central bank, which handles sales of the country’s key export.
The new sanctions, which have irritated some U.S. allies, are part of an effort to pressure Iran amid Western fears that Tehran is developing a nuclear weapon. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added India, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan to the list of those exempt from the sanctions. In March, she made exemptions for European Union nations and Japan.
China -- one of six nations involved in talks with Tehran that resume next week in Moscow -- is an ally of Iran, though it is opposed to the country acquiring nuclear weapons.
Some industry experts say that China, despite its public stance, has been quietly diversifying from Iranian oil, and on Friday President Hu Jintao called on Iran to be “flexible and pragmatic” on its nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Singapore said Tuesday it was in talks with the United States for an exemption from the sanctions.
“While Singapore enforces only U.N. Security Council sanctions, Singapore companies and financial institutions know they must consider the impact of unilateral sanctions on their commercial decisions,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
He added that in the past two years, Iran represented only 1.0 percent of Singapore’s total crude imports and that it imported no oil from the country.