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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held talks with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Beijing on Wednesday, as the US sought Chinese help to toughen sanctions on Iran.
China, Iran's largest oil customer, has already reduced crude purchases for January and February as it disputes contract pricing.
However, a boycott by other oil customers could potentially allow China to buy Iranian crude at a discount, thus reducing its payments to Tehran without forcing it to buy additional oil at a premium on world spot markets.
Despite America's eagerness to win Beijing's support on sanctions, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson played down the issue and focused instead on economic ties.