BEIJING, Feb 23 (Reuters) China, strengthening relations with Iran through trade and energy deals, said there was still room to defuse the international standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions through negotiation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing appealed to the international community to be calm, restrained and patient and to show flexibility for a resumption of negotiations between Europe and Iran, Xinhua news agency said in an overnight report.
''The days before the March 6 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are crucial,'' Li was quoted as saying after meeting visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Iran recently announced it was restarting uranium enrichment work but insists it is interested only in civilian nuclear power.
The United States and the European Union suspect Iran's programme is aimed at eventually making atomic weapons.
The United States and the EU trio of Britain, France and Germany may refer Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions after a March 6 meeting of the IAEA reports on Iran.
China has called on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment.
But it has also repeatedly appealed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis instead of sanctions while deepening economic ties.
China National Heavy-Duty Truck Corp on Tuesday signed a contract to provide 10,000 trucks to Iran for 350 million dollars, Xinhua said today.
Booming China became a net exporter of vehicles for the first time last year, mostly through focusing on cheap models focused on developing markets like the west asia.
Last week, China and Iran were reportedly on the verge of finalising a multi-billion dollar agreement to develop a major oilfield in Iran.
China is one of Iran's biggest oil export markets, importing roughly 300,000 barrels of Iranian crude a day.
Iran and Russia are discussing a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Iranian power plants on its own soil -- seen by some as a last chance to defuse the row over Iran's nuclear ambitions before Western governments seek sanctions.
REUTERS CS SP0940