( Reuters ) - China welcomed Iran's nuclear transparency deal with U.N. inspectors on Thursday, despite Western fears that it could be a recipe for delay.
The August 21 "work plan" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) commits Iran to answer longstanding questions about its nuclear activities over a rough timeline of a few months, leaving untouched Tehran's expanding uranium enrichment work.
The United States and its big European allies have said the deal diverts attention from U.N. Security Council demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and grant broader inspections to defuse mistrust over its nuclear intentions.
The Non-Aligned Movement ( NAM) of developing nations, which includes Iran itself, have endorsed the deal. And on Thursday China underscored its support, saying it offered a way to build trust over Tehran's intentions.
"We welcome the action plan between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on unresolved issues about the Iranian nuclear issue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference, urging the two sides to strengthen cooperation and abide by the plan.
"We believe that this will help restore the confidence of the international community in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear energy plan."
On Wednesday, the EU powers Germany, France and Britain said they feared the IAEA plan could be used to delay getting answers and called for faster action.
The Western powers fear Iran is developing uranium enrichment to give it the capacity to assemble nuclear weapons.
China's endorsement came on the same day that Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi was in Beijing for talks on the nuclear issue.
China has repeatedly urged a diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute, but it faces pressure from Washington and Brussels to back tougher action against Tehran.
Beijing is traditionally reluctant to back sanctions by the U.N. Security Council, of which it is a veto-wielding permanent member. Iran is also a major supplier of oil to China.
The United States plans to host a meeting of key world powers on September 21 to discuss broadening sanctions against Iran.
France and Britain are ready to press for a new sanctions proposal, but they fear Moscow and Beijing could block it, EU diplomats have said.