January 12, 2011 / 9:41 AM / 9 years ago

China and Iran officials discuss nuclear issue

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Iranian official and top Chinese diplomats met to discuss Iran’s nuclear program on Wednesday, but there was no immediate sign China would accept or decline an invite to tour that country’s nuclear facilities.

China has backed U.N. Security Council resolutions pressing Iran to abandon its disputed nuclear activities but China has close energy and trade ties with Iran and has opposed unilateral sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States.

Iranian Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Bagheri met with Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Hailong in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Both sides exchanged views on Sino-Iran bilateral relations and the Iran nuclear issue,” the ministry said in a brief statement on its website (www.mfa.gov.cn), which also showed pictures of the meetings.

It gave no more details.

China has yet to say whether it will accept or decline an offer from Iran to tour its nuclear facilities, saying only that it had received the invitation.

The European Union has turned down an offer from Iran to tour its nuclear facilities, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday.

Ashton said she had consulted Russia and China before deciding that the invitation should not be accepted.

The West suspects Iran’s nuclear programme is directed at developing bombs. Iran says it is for peaceful energy only.

Talks next week between Iran and major powers concerned about its nuclear program could be the “last chance” for the West, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

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