Last updated: 19 January, 2012

China’s Wen defends oil trade with Iran

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd urged China on Thursday to stop buying oil from Iran and join the West in putting pressure on the Islamic republic over its controversial nuclear programme.

Stressing that it was not for Australia to dictate to others, Rudd said importers of Iranian oil should be mindful of the international community’s efforts to pressure Iran, and that China “should reflect seriously on this.”

“For those countries who continue to import we would urge them to be mindful of the actions of others in the international community who are seeking to bring about the pressure necessary to get a change in the Iranian government position,” Rudd told journalists in Paris.

“We would urge our friends in Beijing but elsewhere as well in Asia to reflect seriously on this,” Rudd said after talks with French counterpart Alain Juppe.

Juppe confirmed that he hoped the European Union would agree fresh sanctions against Iran at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. “Sanctions must be toughened to make the Iranian regime evolve,” he said.

“I think that on Monday during the meeting of European Union foreign ministers we will be able to agree on a sanctions programme in the two domains,” Juppe said, referring to finance and oil.

The comments came after Chinese premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday defended China’s vast oil trade with Iran as legitimate while stressing the Beijing government’s opposition to Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons.

“China has normal trading relations with Iran, but will not bargain away its principles. We support the UN resolutions related to the Iranian nuclear issue,” Wen told reporters in gas-rich Qatar.

“China’s oil trade with Iran is a normal commercial activity,” he said, amid fears rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme will disrupt world oil supplies.

Wen’s defence of China’s trade with Iran came as the West ups the stakes in its standoff with Iran, threatening to impose sanctions on the oil exports of the Islamic republic, which provides 11 percent of China’s oil imports.

Iran is the third largest provider of oil to China.

The West fears Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its nuclear programme is purely for civilian use.