DOHA, (AFP) — Premier Wen Jiabao has 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,” the Chinese leader told reporters in gas-rich Qatar late on Wednesday.
“China’s oil trade with Iran is a normal commercial activity,” said Wen.
Wen visited Qatar on the last stop of a Gulf tour that took him to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, amid fears rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme will disrupt world oil supplies.
“I believe that China is not the only country to buy oil from Iran… Legitimate trade has to be protected if global economic chaos is to be avoided,” Wen said according to a Chinese foreign ministry transcript.
“China firmly opposes the development and possession of nuclear weapons by Iran, and calls for the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East,” he added.
Wen’s comments come 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. Qatar and the UAE, although both major oil-producing states, do not yet figure among the top 10 oil exporters to the Asian economic giant.
On his first stop in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch-rival in the Gulf, Wen presided over the signing of energy deals with China’s top oil provider. Deals were also inked on his second stop in the UAE.