China vows to keep promoting peace in Mideast

Protecting oil interests in the region is vital to China's economy

ABU DHABI - China's premier vowed Monday to keep promoting peace in energy-rich Western Asia through the United Nations, at a time of high tension between the West and major oil producer Iran over its nuclear programme.
"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will continue to promote peace in Western Asia," Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told participants at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.
He highlighted the region's "strategic and important position" because it sits on "40 percent of global oil reserves".
On Sunday, Wen was in Saudi Arabia, China's largest supplier of oil, and met with King Abdullah as part of a Gulf tour that will also include Qatar.
The two sides inked several economic and cultural deals including a memorandum of understanding between Saudi petrochemical giant SABIC and China's Sinopec to build a petrochemical plant in Tianjin, official Saudi news agency SPA said.
They also signed a cooperation agreement for the "peaceful use of nuclear energy," it added, without elaborating.
Wen's trip comes as the West steps up the stakes in its standoff with Iran, threatening to impose sanctions on the oil exports of the Islamic republic, which provides 11 percent of China's oil imports.
Iran is the third largest provider of oil to China, while Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, although both major oil-producing states, do not figure among the top 10 oil exporters to Beijing.
The premier's Gulf visit comes shortly after Wen met with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was in Beijing to drum up support for new US sanctions that aim to squeeze Iran's crucial oil revenues.
The measures bar any foreign banks which do business with Iran's central bank -- responsible for processing most oil purchases in the Islamic republic -- from US financial markets.
China opposes the sanctions on Iran, which Washington and other nations accuse of developing nuclear weapons -- a charge denied by Tehran.