BEIJING - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao defended his country's extensive oil imports from Iran against Western pressure to consider sanctions in comments published on Thursday, and yet forthrightly warned Tehran against any effort to acquire nuclear weapons.
Wen spoke at the end of a visit to the Middle East, against a backdrop of tensions over Iran - which Western powers say is focused on developing nuclear arms - and possible US sanctions on companies engaged in energy trade with Iran.
Iran has insisted its nuclear goals are peaceful, and in late December threatened to punish the latest Western sanctions by choking off oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for much of the Middle East's oil exports.
"China adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons," said Wen, warning against any confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz. Beijing is usually much more coy in public about saying Iran could want nuclear arms.