Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chinese firms fill in gaps left by Iran sanctions: Nicholas Burns


A former senior US diplomat has slammed China for what he called Beijing’s “mercantilist” approach in filling whatever space the western companies have vacated because of the sanctions against Iran.

China has been the “major hindrance” to effective pressure on Iran, Nicholas Burns, who served as Under Secretary for Political Affairs under former US President George W. Bush, said on Friday, Wall Street Journal reported.

“They (Chinese) have fundamentally undercut the sanctions regime,” Burns said. “Our pressure should be on China.”

Beijing has repeatedly condemned the US-led unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic, saying it will not bow to US pressure to cut its oil purchases from Tehran.

"China opposes any country implementing unilateral sanctions on another country according to its domestic law," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Wednesday.

"China legally imports oil from Iran through normal channels in a reasonable and fair manner," he added.

The US, Israel and some of their allies have accused Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program. Washington and the EU have even used this pretext to impose sanctions against Iran.

On New Year’s Eve, the US imposed new harsher sanctions against Iran aimed at preventing other countries from importing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with its central bank.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement on Tuesday that Washington had exempted financial institutions from 11 nations - Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain - from the new sanctions.

The most important countries which have not been included on the exemption list are China, India and South Korea.

China is the biggest buyer of the Iranian crude and figures released by US Department of Energy show that about 22 percent of Iranian oil exports go to the East Asian country.

Iran has repeatedly refuted the Western allegations regarding its nuclear energy program, arguing that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. 

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