China reduces Iran oil buy as US and EU sanctions loom

The United States and the European Union’s increasingly firm stance against Iran’s nuclear ambitions have, as my colleague Raymond Karam writes, potentially undermined the security of mideast oil supply.

In the face of sanctions, Iran has had one relatively stable customer in China, but The Telegraph reports today that China has reduced its oil purchases and expressed firm opposition to Iran developing nuclear weapons.

“China adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons,” [Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao] said. …

The Washington Post reported that China trimmed its oil imports from Iran in January from a daily average of around 550,000 barrels to 285,000 barrels a day. …

“Iran would not have wanted China to make this statement, but Iran must understand that if it comes down to a choice China will not alienate itself from the rest of the world for the sake of single country,” said Yu Guoqing, a researcher on the Middle East at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. [full story]

This is an interesting year for international relations. The world may not end (notwithstanding the brief absence of Wikipedia), but presidential elections in the United States and Russia, a leadership transition in China, and parliamentary elections in Iran all make for less predictability.

[UPDATE Sun Jan 22 00:41:06 EST 2012] WSJ writes: “China’s imports from Iran could decline in the months ahead due to a dispute over commercial issues between China International United Petroleum & Chemicals Co., known as Unipec, and National Iranian Oil Co. Unipec has skipped imports of about 220,000 barrels a day from Iran in January and further delays could affect February orders as well.” So, though the international context continues to exist, there are of course other things going on…

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