China on Thursday called on Iran to cooperate with U.N. nuclear inspectors, but declined to criticize the country for blocking recent requests for information and visits to sensitive sites.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Iran should agree to more talks at an early date and preserve the positive momentum in dialogue between Tehran and the international community.
Iran should work with the International Atomic Energy Agency to "clarify the relevant issues over Iran's nuclear program and further restore the international community's confidence in Iran's plan on the peaceful use of nuclear power," Hong told reporters at a daily news conference.
Iran, which says it is using nuclear energy only to generate power, this week rebuffed IAEA attempts to investigate allegations that it is secretly working to build atomic weapons.
The IAEA team had hoped to speak with key Iranian scientists suspected of working on the alleged weapons program, break down opposition to its plans to inspect documents related to nuclear work and secure commitments from Iranian authorities to allow future visits.
But mission head Herman Nackaerts acknowledged that his team "could not find a way forward" in negotiations with Iranian officials. As on the previous visit, which ended in early February, Iran did not grant requests by the IAEA mission to visit Parchin _ a military site thought to be used for explosives testing related to nuclear detonations.
The U.S., France and others expressed criticism or disappointment over Iran's attitude, although Russia, which along with China has opposed new sanctions against Iran, said no hasty conclusions should be drawn from the mission's outcome.
China has extensive economic relations with Iran, from which it imports about 10 percent of its oil.