China's top newspaper has slammed U.S. moves to restrict Iran's oil trade. The newspaper says such unilateral action was not only wrong but could exacerbate the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme. Such restrictions could see Chinese banks sanctioned.
Financial sanctions by the United States have exempted Japan and 10 EU nations because they have significantly cut purchases of Iranian oil. However, Iran's top customers China and India remain at risk.
Banks in the 11 countries have been given a six-month reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the U.S. financial system under the new sanctions. These sanctions are designed to pressure Iran over a nuclear programme the West suspects is aimed at producing weapons, however, Iran insists it is merely trying to boost electricity output.
The People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, said in a commentary that the U.S. move was misguided and selfish. It continues to mention that China had every right to import oil from Iran.
"One stand-out feature of unilateralism is this: that one's own rules become the world's rules. Everyone must respect them, and if you don't, then you will be punished," the paper said, adding that previous unilateralism by the United States had led to the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Why is it that so-called order in such places has been slow and unobtainable, and that turmoil has continued?" the commentary said.
"The facts have proved again and again that unilateralism is not the way to resolve the world's problems, and that it will only complicate and exacerbate the situation, and not only not douse the flames but may even fan them."
The U.S. sanctions and an EU oil embargo have cut Iran out of financial networks, making it difficult to transfer funds to pay for trade. There have been disruptions to some oil shipments because of the difficulty of securing shipping insurance.
Domestic prices in Iran have increased and the rial has slumped in value.
China has decreased its crude oil imports from Iran by half in February from December levels to pressure Tehran in a contract dispute, while increasing its purchases from Iran's rival, Saudi Arabia, to a record level to fill the gap.
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