China defends business ties with Iran

China has defended its business dealings with Iran after a senior US official called on Beijing to follow UN sanctions against the Islamic republic to the letter.

The statement from a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman published in state media Thursday also came after a senior US lawmaker called for sanctions to be imposed on Beijing over its major investments in Tehran's energy sector.

"China's trade with Iran is normal business exchange, which will not harm the interests of other countries and the international community," the spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, was quoted as saying by the China Daily.

Banner bearing portraits of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and his predecessor, the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R), are seen on a construction site for the South Pars gas field development in the Iranian port town of Asaluyeh on July 19, 2010.

"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always observed the council's resolutions."

In June, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear drive, which the West and Israel say is a covert weapons drive, and especially over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

China, which wields a veto on the council, backed the UN measures, but it has since voiced opposition to further unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, instead calling for more negotiations.

On Monday, Robert Einhorn, the US State Department's special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control, appealed to China to fully back sanctions on both Iran and North Korea, also suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

"We want China to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system," Einhorn said during a visit to Seoul.

"That means cooperating with the UN Security Council resolutions and it means not backfilling or not taking advantage of responsible self-restraint of other countries."

Einhorn is expected to make a stop in Beijing during his Asia tour.

Also on Monday, US lawmaker Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- said investments by Chinese state-run firms in Iran's energy sector were "effectively bankrolling" its nuclear programme.

Ros-Lehtinen did not offer details, but US officials have noted that Chinese firms have been stepping in to fill the void left by companies leaving Iran because of UN and US sanctions.

"It's time to implement our sanctions laws and demonstrate to Russia and China that there are consequences for abetting Tehran and flouting US sanctions," she said in a statement.

"Russia and China appear determined to continue to facilitate Iran's dangerous policies. This must not be allowed to continue without serious repercussions."

China has emerged as Iran's closest trading partner and has major energy interests in the Islamic republic.

China is investing 40 billion dollars in Iran's oil and gas industry, the Islamic republic's deputy oil minister Hossein Noqrehkar Shirazi said Saturday. Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi is due in Beijing this week.

source AFP

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