China urges Iran to uphold its right to 'peaceful use of nuclear power'

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi hold a press conference following a meeting on February 15, 2015 in the capital Tehran.(AFP Photo / Atta Kenare )
China has called on Iran to come to a long-awaited agreement with six world powers over its dubious nuclear program and "finish the last kilometer of the marathon talks well," without extending the deadline for the third time.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the talks between Tehran and the P5+1 powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany) were a "historic opportunity" to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities.

"The negotiations have seen positive progress,"
he said in Tehran, but "they have become more difficult and complicated" as they come close to a conclusion, AFP reported.

While Iran insists it has no nuclear weapons ambitions, it is subject to wide-ranging Western and United Nations sanctions. Disagreements in the talks revolve around the extent of nuclear activities Iran will be allowed to continue and the timetable for the lifting of the sanctions.

"Reaching comprehensive agreement is beneficial to Iran upholding its own legal rights, including the right to the peaceful use of nuclear power, and for the people of Iran to throw off the difficulties of sanctions as early as possible and focus on energetically developing the economy," Wang told his Iranian counterpart, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement issued on Monday.

Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, about 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran.(REuters / Majid Asgaripour)

Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif has agreed that "the opportunity must be seized" for a deal, adding that Iran was ready "to show flexibility to reassure the P5+1 group." Zarif stated that China was a “key” member in the six world powers group and Iran counted on its role in helping to reach a “good” solution to the nuclear issue, Tehran Times reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister meanwhile noted that the deal would also help Iran finally escape from sanctions allowing the country to "energetically develop the economy."

China and Iran have had close economic, trade and energy ties, as China's crude oil imports from Iran soared by nearly 30 percent last year to their highest level since 2011.

Wang said he saw "enormous space for cooperation" on more industrial projects, with China "willing to encourage even more Chinese companies to invest in Iran and build factories via the joint development of industrial parks in accordance with Iran's development needs and China's ability."

According to Wang, China was in favor of peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.

"Whatever the circumstance, we firmly support talks, oppose the use of violence and disapprove unilateral sanctions,"
Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Two deadlines for a final agreement on Iran's nuclear program have been missed since an interim deal was reached in November 2013. Iran and P5+1 powers are expected to reach a basic framework agreement by the end of March, with a final accord due by June 30.

READ MORE: Iran threatens nuclear enrichment expansion if US pursues sanctions

Earlier this month Iran’s parliament passed a bill asking the government to resume all nuclear activities if US imposes new sanctions.

“Naturally, if there is no agreement on the issue [Iran’s nuclear program] then both sides can return back to their previous positions,” the general director of Iran’s Foreign Ministry Political and International Security Department, Hamid Baedinejad, told reporters at the country’s embassy in Moscow. “Iran can continue to develop its nuclear program from the perspective that benefits the country’s national interests. Iran will continue its development and we will install more centrifuges.”