China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it opposes unilateral sanctions against Iran, days after several Western countries announced new measures against Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran's energy and financial sectors on Monday and France proposed unprecedented new sanctions, including freezing the assets of its central bank and suspending purchases of its oil.
China is always against unilateral sanctions against Iran and is even more opposed to the expansion of such sanctions, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters at a regular press briefing, reiterating the need for negotiations.
We believe pressure and sanctions will not fundamentally solve the Iranian issue, but will complicate the issue. Intensifying confrontation is not conducive to the region's peace and stability, Liu said.
Iran has dismissed the new wave of sanctions, saying the West's attempts to isolate its economy would only serve to unite Iranians behind their government's nuclear programme.
The latest sanctions were prompted by a U.N. nuclear agency report that suggested Iran had worked on an atomic bomb design. Tehran maintains its work is entirely peaceful and said the report was based on false Western intelligence.
But the series of unilateral steps were meant to pressure Iran to suspend the nuclear programme before it gets the bomb. Israel and Washington say they do not rule out military strikes if other efforts fail.
Critics of the sanctions said they would fail to stop Iran's nuclear work and would play into the hands of a government that wears its hostility to Washington as a badge of pride.
The moves by the Western governments came outside of the United Nations, where Russia and China -- both permanent U.N. Security Council members with veto power -- agree that Iran should not be subjected to sanctions.
Russia called the U.S. moves unacceptable.
China, which has kept close ties with Iran, has backed past U.N. Security Council resolutions criticising Iran's position on nuclear issues and authorising limited sanctions.
But Beijing has repeatedly resisted Western proposals for sanctions that could seriously curtail its energy and economic ties with Iran, China's third-largest crude oil supplier.
It has said Chinese firms will business dealings with Iran should not be targeted.
Iran shipped 20.3 million tonnes of crude oil in the first nine months of the year, up by almost a third on the same period last year, according to Chinese data.
(Reporting By Sui-lee Wee; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)