Western governments have become increasingly confident that the Beijing government will back UN sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear activities.
China is currently Iran’s leading economic partner having filled many of the gaps left by Western companies forced out by international sanctions.
One diplomat familiar with the situation has said China will probably support US proposals to blacklist banks, impose travel bans and freeze assets, but would not be happy to stop dealing with Iranian shipping companies, ban arms imports, or target oil and gas industries.
Trade between the two has grown from the equivalent of 300 million euros in 1995 to 11 billion in 2006 and 16 billion last year.
China exports weapons and imports oil and gas – 14 percent of its arms exports in the last five years went to Iran, and China’s largest energy firm recently agreed to invest 6.6 billion euros in Iranian gas and oil projects.
China has an ever increasing need for oil to power its factories.
But in the first two months of this year, Chinese imports of Iranian crude oil dropped 37.2 percent compared to the same period last year.
Experts said that is probably linked to price rather than politics.