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China Criticizes New U.S. Sanctions Over Iranian Oil Deals

FILE - Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
BEIJING/NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) -

China on Thursday criticized the United States for imposing new sanctions on Chinese entities and people suspected of transferring oil from Iran, accusing Washington of "bullying".

China's cooperation with Iran is legitimate and legal, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on five Chinese nationals and six entities that it said had violated Washington's unilateral curbs on Tehran,

These included two Cosco Shipping Corporation subsidiaries, Cosco Shipping Tanker Dalian and Cosco Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman and Ship Management Co Ltd.

"We are telling China, and all nations: know that we will sanction every violation," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in New York on Wednesday.

China, which is already embroiled in a trade dispute with the United States, responded that its dealings with Iran were legal and should be respected.

"We always oppose the so-called long arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions," spokesman Geng said. "We also oppose the bullying practice of the U.S."

He urged Washington "to correct its wrongdoing".

Attacks on Sept. 14 on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which the United States blames on Iran, have rattled the Middle East and raised concerns about a broader war. Iran denies involvement.

"The more Iran lashes out the greater our pressure will and should be," Pompeo said. "That path forward begins now with two new actions."

He said Washington was also ramping up efforts to educate countries on the risks of doing business with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps entities and said it will punish those who continue to engage with them.

The other three companies appearing on the U.S. sanction list are Hongkong-registered China Concord Petroleum Co Ltd and Kunlun Shipping Company Ltd, and Virgin Island-registered Kunlun Holding Company Ltd.

Cosco Shipping and the three mentioned companies did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

In a speech to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would keep squeezing Iran's economy with sanctions until Tehran agrees to give up what Washington says is a pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran has said its nuclear program has always been for peaceful purposes only.

Last year Trump withdrew from a 2015 international accord with Iran which had put limits on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.