BEIJING – China urged Iran on Friday to show flexibility and pragmatism in international talks over its nuclear ambitions, in a sign of Beijing's desire to help end tensions despite its opposition to tougher sanctions on Tehran.
In a Beijing meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China's leader Hu Jintao said progress had been made in talks last month in Baghdad that kept a dialogue going but still left huge gaps between Tehran and the six world powers with which it is negotiating, among them China.
"China hopes the Iranian side can weigh up the situation, take a flexible and pragmatic approach, have serious talks with all six related nations, and enhance dialogues and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency so as to ensure the tensions can be eased through negotiations," Hu told Ahmadinejad, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
China, Hu said, will "continue to play a constructive role in settling the issue through peaceful means."
The statement said Ahmadinejad spoke about Iran's nuclear policies, but gave no details. It cited him as saying Iran hoped to ease tensions through talks and would maintain contact with all sides.
China, along with Russia, has been criticized at times for maintaining warm ties with Tehran and opposing stiffer sanctions to compel it to shut down its highest-level uranium enrichment and meet other demands. Along with opposing new U.N. Security Council sanctions, Beijing says it is against unilateral measures aimed at pressuring Tehran and is adamantly opposed to any use of force over the issue.
That stance is an outgrowth of Beijing's strictly noninterventionist foreign policy, although China is also a major customer for Iranian oil and gas and Chinese companies are involved in major projects there such as road building and electricity production.
Iran is expected to head into the next round of talks, on June 18-19 in Moscow, with the same general demands that fell flat last month in Baghdad, the first main negotiating session since the effort was revived in April.
Before moving forward in the talks, Iran wants an easing of sanctions targeting its critical oil exports and blackballing the country from international banking networks.
Iran insists it has no intention of making nuclear arms and says its reactors are only for energy and medical applications.