VIENNA • China yesterday said it would import Iranian oil in defiance of United States sanctions on Teheran, a day before US and Chinese leaders are to meet to try to resolve thorny trade disputes.
"We reject the unilateral imposition of sanctions," said Mr Fu Cong, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Arms Control.
Washington, which is trying to force Teheran to renegotiate an agreement limiting its nuclear programme, had, at the end of May, tightened sanctions to include a full ban on Iran's exports of oil and also threatened to punish nations which refuse to go along.
"For us, energy security is important and the importation of oil is important to Chinese energy security and also to the livelihood of the people... we do not accept this so-called zero policy of the United States," Mr Fu told reporters after talks in Vienna that Teheran said were the "last chance" to save the nuclear pact, as the US vowed to choke off all sales of Iranian oil.
Mr Fu's statement came a day before US President Donald Trump is to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit (G-20) in Japan in an attempt to resolve an escalating trade war.
Earlier, Mr Brian Hook, the US Special Representative on Iran, told reporters in London: "We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil... There are right now no oil waivers in place."
The US would study reports of Iranian crude going to China, Mr Hook said, when asked about the sale of Iranian crude to Asia, adding: "We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil."
We will sanction any imports of Iranian crude oil... There are right now no oil waivers in place.
MR BRIAN HOOK, the US Special Representative on Iran.
Teheran said progress was made at the talks in Vienna which were aimed at saving the Iran nuclear deal but probably not enough to convince the Islamic Republic to change its decision to go over the deal's core atomic restrictions one by one.
Iran's envoy to the talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told reporters: "It was a step forward, but it is still not enough and not meeting Iran's expectations.
"I will report back to Teheran and the final decision will be by Teheran to take."
Iran is threatening to exceed the maximum amount of enriched uranium it is allowed under the deal unless fellow signatories of the pact rein in the US, adding to fears of a military escalation in the region.
Teheran had said it would exceed the agreed 300kg reserve of enriched uranium on Thursday, but sources said the limit had not been passed. An Iranian official said the missed date was a "technical matter". He said Iran was 2.8kg under the 300kg ceiling. The US reimposed tough sanctions on Iran since Mr Trump pulled the country out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which lifted sanctions on Teheran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE