Iran foreign trade rises despite sanctions
Figures released by Iranian officials show the country's foreign trade has been developing in recent years despite tougher sanctions imposed on Iran's oil and financial sectors by the US and European Union.
Iran's Ambassador to Beijing Mehdi Safari said Wednesday that trade between Iran and China increased by 55 percent to exceed 45 billion dollars in 2011.
He added that the annual trade figures show a 16 billion-dollar increase in commercial ties with China since 2010.
China is Iran's top trade partner, with economic ties expanding in recent years after the withdrawal of Western companies in line with sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its peaceful nuclear program.
Beijing has also significantly increased its presence in Iran's oil and gas sector by signing a series of contracts worth up to 40 billion dollars in the past few years.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao defended his country's oil trade with Iran in defiance of proposed US and European sanctions during the last leg of his recent Persian Gulf tour on January 19.
"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," Wen told reporters in the Qatari capital city of Doha.
Iran is the third largest provider of oil to China which accounts for 11 percent of the country's oil imports.
India and South Korea are also major importers of Iran's crude oil which have rejected frequent calls by US and EU to join West's oil embargo against Tehran.
On December 31, 2011, US President Barack Obama signed into law new sanctions which seek to penalize countries importing Iran's oil or doing transaction with the country's central bank.
In their latest meeting in Brussels on January 23, EU foreign ministers also imposed new sanctions on Iran which include a ban on purchasing oil from the country, a freeze on the assets of Iran's Central Bank within the EU, and a ban on the sale of diamonds, gold and other precious metals to Iran.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton claimed that the new sanctions aim to bring Iran back to negotiations with P5+1 -- US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany -- over the country's peaceful nuclear program.
The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to impose four rounds of sanctions and a series of unilateral 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, Tehran has a right to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.