China oil firm denies sales to Iran
A Chinese oil firm which the United States placed sanctions on saying it was the largest seller of refined petroleum products to Iran has denied the claim as "fiction", state-run media said Saturday.
Washington on Thursday said Chinese state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Co. brokered delivery of more than ê500 million in gasoline to Iran from July 2010-January 2011 and put in place sanctions barring it from doing business in the US.
The sanctions came a day after US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met Chinese leaders on how to raise pressure on Tehran to halt its alleged nuclear weapons program.
"The accusations that we export refined oil to Iran is complete fiction. We have never done that. The sanctions are truly puzzling," a spokesperson for Zhuhai Zhenrong was quoted as saying in The Global Times newspaper.
Calls to the Beijing-based company went unanswered on Saturday.
The sanctions, also placed on companies from Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, bar the three firms from receiving US export licenses, trade support from the US Export Import Bank, and loans over ê10 million from US financial institutions.
Zhuhai Zhenrong's website said the company, founded in 1994, had imported a total of 150 million tonnes of crude oil by the end of 2010 and has a long-term contract to import fuel oil from the National Iranian Oil Company.
"The sanctions don't make any difference to our company's business because we have never had any business cooperation with any United States companies," spokesperson Zheng Mei told China's Legal Mirror newspaper on Friday.
China, long an important customer for Iranian oil exports, has resisted adding any strong support to US and European efforts to tighten pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
Vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai warned this week against making any links between China's trade relations with Iran and pressure on Tehran's nuclear program.
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