( AP ) - China supports Iran's right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but wants Tehran to allay international suspicions about its nuclear program, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
The message was delivered this week by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on a trip to Tehran, showing how split the U.N. Security Council remains over Iran's uranium enrichment program.
The United States and some of its allies claim Iran plans to obtain a nuclear weapon. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear arms and insists its program aims only to produce electricity.
While the U.S. and European countries want China to take a harder line, Tehran is counting on support from China and Russia to block new U.N. sanctions.
"Foreign Minister Yang said that China believes Iran has the right to peacefully use nuclear energy," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular media briefing. He said Iranian officials also told Yang that they do not intend to develop nuclear weapons.
Yang also called for Tehran to "strengthen its cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency and make progress at talks later this month with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
"China also hopes all parties show flexibility and make its due efforts to the peaceful resolution of the issue," Liu said.
Yang met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and the country's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, during his visit earlier this week. Ahmadinejad praised "China's support" for Iran's nuclear rights, Iran's IRNA news agency has reported.
China agreed to earlier sanctions against Iran but has argued against further tough economic measures. Beijing has been working with other countries in trying to find a way to get Iran to abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or a nuclear warhead.