06/22/2012, 00.00
IRAN - CHINA

Beijing taking advantage of Iran sanctions to boost Iranian oil imports

After a drop in the first part of the year, imports from Iran jump to 524,000 barrels a day. A new contract is signed a few days after the failure of talks between Tehran and 5+1 group on Iran's nuclear programme. New sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States are set to kick in on 1 July.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Beijing has settled its contract dispute with Tehran and announced that it would boost imports by 34 per cent or 524,000 barrels a day. Imports had dropped earlier this year because of late payments to Iran.

The deal comes a few days before new sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Iran come into effect on 1 July, following the failure of the 5+1 talks with Tehran in Moscow last Tuesday. The 5+1 group includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France), plus Germany. More talks are scheduled for 3 July in Istanbul (Turkey).

"China's importing of Iranian oil is based on its own economic development needs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

China has always opposed economic sanctions against Iran. "It is even less acceptable for such unilateral sanctions to be imposed on a third country," Hong explained.

Yesterday, Japan adopted a law that enables the government to shoulder protection coverage of up to US$ 7.6 billion for each tanker transporting Iranian crude to Japan in case of accidents.

In 2004, Tokyo and Tehran had signed a basic agreement on a major oil development project in Azadegan, one of the world's largest oil fields in the world with estimated reserves of 26 billion barrels.

For months, the US has been pressuring China, Iran's top oil buyer, and other Asian nations to cut imports of Iranian crude in order to force Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment programme and abandon plans to develop nuclear weapons.

On 12 June, Washington did apply a waiver for seven countries, including India, from financial sanctions in return for significantly reducing purchases of Iranian oil.

Yesterday, Iran's Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi accused the United States and Israel of a cyber attack against its facilities following the Moscow meeting of 18-19 June on Iran's nuclear programme, but Iranian computer experts were apparently able to stop it.

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