BEIJING (Reuters) - China called for dialogue to resolve the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program, reiterating its long-held position that Tehran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.
"China believes as long as all sides remain patient, flexible and pragmatic and take proactive measures to enhance mutual confidence, dialogue and negotiation will make headway," Xinhua cited Li Baodong, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, as saying at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday.
The meeting was held to discuss a quarterly report on Iran's compliance with four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Tehran for refusing to halt a nuclear enrichment program that Western powers fear is aimed at producing bombs.
Li's comments come in the wake of reports that Iran is under investigation for new attempts to import items from North Korea and China that are banned under U.N. sanctions against Tehran's nuclear and missile programs, according to U.N. diplomats.
As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China voted in favor of a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran last June, aimed at pressuring Tehran to curb a nuclear program it says is entirely peaceful.
China, a close ally of Tehran, has backed Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power and has in the past expressed displeasure at sanctions proposals hitting Iran's energy sector, saying that it does not view such measures as the "fundamental solution" to the dispute.
As a state party to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Iran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Li said, although he added that it should also fulfill its relevant international obligations at the same time.
"We hope that Iran will take initiatives to enhance the international community's confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program," Li said.
China, the second-biggest buyer of Iranian oil after Japan, has long been involved in infrastructure projects in Iran, such as the building of the world's tallest dam and Tehran's metro.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ken Wills and Sugita Katyal)