Chinese state oil companies began selling gasoline to Iran this month and now provide 30,000 to 40,000 barrels a day, or as much as a third of the country's imports. The development comes despite US-led attempts to block gas shipments to Iran, which has seen oil giants BP and Reliance end sales. Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers, but its refineries are in poor shape and generous government subsidies keep demand sky-high.
As the Financial Times reports, the Chinese companies do not sell gas directly to Iran but operate through intermediaries. The sales are not illegal, since fuel is not on the list of sanctioned imports. The White House said yesterday that President Obama was "forceful" on the subject of Iran at his meeting in New York with his counterpart Hu Jintao. But a Chinese official said that the country's businesses "conduct normal trade relations with Iran, strictly speaking within the relevant UN resolutions."