Beijing: China said on Thursday it was working for a "peaceful resolution" of the Iranian nuclear standoff, as Tehran sent its top negotiator to Beijing for talks on its disputed atomic programme.
The comments from the Chinese government, which has opposed the imposition of tough new sanctions on the Islamic republic, came after the United States said Beijing appeared ready to engage in "serious" talks on the issue.
"On the Iranian nuclear issue, China will continue to endeavour toward a peaceful resolution," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.
"We have always and will continue to push for a peaceful settlement of this issue," Qin said, adding that the standoff should be resolved by "diplomatic means".
Tehran`s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili arrived in China on Thursday to discuss the Islamic republic`s atomic programme with Beijing, an Iranian embassy spokesman said, without providing details on his visit.
Jalili was to meet high-ranking officials in Beijing and hold "bilateral talks and discuss the nuclear issue," Iran`s official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
His visit comes amid mounting pressure against Iran to abandon its suspect nuclear programme, with US President Barack Obama saying on Tuesday he wants sanctions agreed upon within weeks.
China has repeatedly called for stepped up negotiations, rather than new punitive action.
But the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, on said Wednesday that China now appeared ready for "serious" talks at the UN on the issue.
Jalili has scheduled a press briefing in Beijing on Friday.