Abu Dhabi Iran is accepting yuan for some of the approximately $20 billion (Dh73.4 billion) worth of crude the Opec member supplies to its main client, China, annually, an Iranian diplomat said Tuesday, as the two countries try to maintain trade ties despite Western sanctions.

US sanctions against Iran have made paying for its crude with hard currency difficult for top oil customers including China and India, forcing them to look for alternatives.

The US dollar and euros are the two main currencies used in the global oil trade. But tough Western measures aimed at pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear programme have forced importers of Iranian oil to pay in the Korean won and the Japanese yen.

The Financial Times on Monday reported China for months has been transferring yuan to Tehran through Russian banks to pay for Iranian crude. Opec's second largest oil producer was using the currency to spend on goods and services imported from China. Initially, the non-barter portions of the transactions were settled in Beijing through yuan accounts but, due to US pressure, Bank of China had stopped dealing with Iran, the newspaper said.