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China Tells US Not to Interfere in Relations with Iran

  • Daniel Schearf

A Chinese official says the United States should not interfere in China's relations with Iran. The comment came after the U.S. expressed concern about a Chinese oil company's plans to invest in an Iranian oil field, at a time when Tehran is defying the United Nations over Iran's nuclear program. Daniel Schearf reports for VOA from Beijing.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, says China has every right to do business with Iran, and the U.S. has no right to comment on the two countries' dealings.

"We think that this kind of cooperation and relationship is legitimate," said Liu. "Normal relations, normal cooperation should not be interfered [with]."

Washington views the planned investment by a Chinese state-run oil company as sending the wrong signal to Tehran. The U.S. and the European Union fear Tehran is aiming to produce nuclear weapons. They want to see other countries end big business deals with Iran, as a way of pressuring it to halt what Tehran insists is a program to develop nuclear energy.

Tehran has refused to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to fully monitor its project of uranium enrichment. The U.N. Security Council has issued a resolution banning sales of nuclear materials or technology to Iran. China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and voted for the resolution, but, along with Russia, has been reluctant to exert too much pressure on the Iranians.

China, hungry for energy to feed its booming economy, has close relations with Iran, and has called for diplomacy rather than confrontation to resolve the nuclear dispute.

Beijing's comments came the same day Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Olmert is in Beijing to promote trade and relations with China, but is also lobbying Beijing to take a harder line against Iran, which is a sworn enemy of Israel.

Mr. Olmert said Wednesday, after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, that he was pleasantly surprised at China's concerns about Iran. But Israel wants to see Beijing hold Tehran to the letter of the U.N. resolution, and support tougher action, if Tehran violates it.

Speaking during his meeting with Mr. Hu Thursday, Mr. Olmert stressed the close ties between their two nations.

"I come from one of the oldest capitals in the history of the world, Jerusalem, to one of the oldest capitals in the history of the world, also, the capital of a great nation," he said. "The bond between our two peoples is a major consideration in the strategy of the state of Israel in our international affairs."

Mr. Olmert said Israel wants to greatly expand trade with China, already its third-largest trading partner.

He said Israel has opened its third representation office in China, the only country other than the U.S. where Israel has more than an embassy and a consulate.

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