Iran said on Tuesday it hoped China would not give in to pressure to agree to new sanctions that the United States and its allies hope to win U.N. approval for over its nuclear program.
Washington and other Western powers want China to approve a proposed U.N. resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran, a big source of oil for China, after Iran refused an offer to enrich its uranium abroad.
Western powers have been looking for signs of a shift in the position of a country with veto power on the U.N. Security Council, but both Iran and China have given no ground so far.
China is a great country which enjoys enough power to pursue its own decisions independently without being pressured by America, foreign minister spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a news conference in Tehran.
Of course our expectations from such a big country is the same ... to pursue its foreign policies independently and just observe its own national interests, he said, citing Iran's close relations with China.
Iran has turned to Chinese firms for investment in its energy and other sectors after Western firms turned away due to Iran's political isolation and sanctions.
China's Foreign Minister said on Sunday new sanctions on Iran would not solve the stand-off over its nuclear program, which Western powers fear will allow Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is only interested in electricity.
China upholds resolving the Iran nuclear issue peacefully, through dialogue, negotiation and diplomatic means. We think this accords with the interests of all sides, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing on Tuesday.
We also believe that at present, there is still room for diplomatic efforts. Dialogue and negotiations are still the best choice, and cannot be lightly abandoned, he said.
Beijing has previously resisted calls for harsh sanctions and Yang emphasized his government's reluctance, though he stopped short of opposing outright any new U.N. resolution.
Russia, which in the past has stood closely with Iran in the face of Western pressure, has shifted position in recent months, signaling support for a new round of sanctions.
A draft Western document proposes restricting more Iranian banks abroad, but does not call for sanctions against Iran's oil and gas industries.
(Reporting by Reza Derakhshi in Tehran and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Louise Ireland)