BEIJING, Apr 18 (Reuters) China is disturbed by the deepening international stand-off over Iran's nuclear plans but still hopes for a negotiated solution, a senior Chinese envoy told Iranian officials, the foreign ministry today said.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai visited Tehran on Friday after Iran announced it had enriched uranium, defying international calls for it to halt such work.
He urged his Iranian hosts and other countries to step back from confrontation, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry told a regular news conference tody.
''China expressed its disquiet about current developments,'' spokesman Qin Gang said. ''We hope all sides will maintain restraint and flexibility to create conditions favourable to an appropriate resolution of the Iran nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations,'' Qin said, paraphrasing Cui's message.
Iran has defied UN calls for it to halt its atomic research, which the West fears could be a cover for making nuclear weapons.
Western countries have been pushing the U.N. Security Council to make its demands that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment binding under international law.
But China and Russia, veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council along with the United States, Britain and France, fear that could later lead to sanctions, something they have traditionally opposed.
The Security Council has told Iran to halt all sensitive atomic activities, and on March 29 asked its nuclear watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, to report on Iranian compliance in 30 days.
The oil-producing Islamic republic says its nuclear programme is only for electricity generation.
The United States, which already has a broad range of sanctions on Iran, has said it wants the Security Council to be ready to take strong diplomatic action, including so-called targeted measures such as a freeze on assets and visa curbs.