China reiterates opposition to tougher US sanctions on Iran

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China, Iran's largest trading partner and top oil customer, repeated its opposition on Friday to tougher US sanctions on Iran after the House of Representatives approved a bill aimed at halting Iran's oil exports.

The bill seeks to cut Iran's oil exports by a further one million barrels per day to near zero over a year, an attempt to reduce the flow of funds to Teheran's disputed nuclear programme.

The legislation provides for heavy penalties for buyers who do not find alternative supplies.

"China has long advocated resolution through dialogue and negotiations and opposes unilateral sanctions from one nation based on its domestic laws," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a faxed statement to Reuters.

"In particular, it opposes sanctions that will hurt the interests of a third party," it added, without elaborating.

The success of any toughening of the sanctions will depend on China, Iran's top customer, which has repeatedly said it opposes unilateral sanctions outside the purview of the United Nations.

China reduced oil purchases from Iran by 21 per cent last year, but that was partly on account of differences in the first quarter over the renewal terms of annual contracts and shipping delays.

Chinese oil industry officials have said refiners are likely to cut shipments 5-10 per cent this year from last. They cut imports 2 per cent in the first six months of the year.

China has consistently advocated resolving the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme through talks and has opposed what it views as unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union made outside the framework of the United Nations.

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