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21 January 2012 - 12:27

China has once again expressed its opposition to the US-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, reiterating that dialogue is the sole way to resolve the country's nuclear issue.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a Thursday news conference that the situation in the Persian Gulf is increasingly tense, calling for a calm approach to settle the issue.

"We hope relevant parties (Iran and the West) will remain calm, rational and restrained, and jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the [Persian] Gulf," Liu said.

Commenting on the US and European decision to ban oil imports from Iran, Liu said sanctions, pressure, or threats would lead to nowhere and would only aggravate the situation.

Earlier in the day, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said his country will continue oil trade with Iran, defying the proposed US and European sanctions which are aimed at halting Iran's oil exports.

He said, "I believe that China is not the only country to buy oil from Iran... legitimate trade has to be protected if global economic chaos is to be avoided."

The remarks by Chinese officials come amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West over proposed sanctions against the Iranian oil sector.

Tehran has threatened that if sanctions are actually imposed on Iran's oil trade, the country may respond by closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow shipping channel between the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman with a daily flow of about 15 million barrels of oil.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this as a pretext to impose four rounds of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has refuted the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.

The IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, but has never found any evidence indicating a diversion in Tehran's civilian nuclear program.
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