Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman has criticized the US unilateral sanctions against the Iranian oil sector, saying Beijing’s crude import from the Islamic Republic is “legal.”

"China opposes any country implementing unilateral sanctions on another country according to its domestic law," Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Wednesday.

"China legally imports oil from Iran through normal channels in a reasonable and fair manner," he added.

"Beijing imports oil based on the country's economic development needs without violating relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and undermining the third parties’ and international community's interests," the Chinese official said.

On New Year’s Eve, the United States imposed new sanctions against Iran aimed at preventing other countries from importing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with its central bank.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement on Tuesday that Washington has exempted financial institutions from 11 nations - Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, from new sanctions.

The most important countries which have not been included on the exemption list are China, India and South Korea.

China is the biggest buyer of the Iranian crude and figures released by US Department of Energy show that about 22 percent of Iranian oil exports go to the East Asian country.

The US and EU have imposed tough financial and oil sanctions against Iran since the beginning of 2012, claiming that the country’s nuclear energy program includes a military component.

Tehran refutes their claims noting that frequent inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to prove any diversion in Iran's nuclear energy program toward military purposes.
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