Ananth Krishnan

Hopes the deal would help promote a peaceful resolution

Iran is the third-biggest source of crude oil for China

BEIJING: China has welcomed the new uranium swap deal agreed to by Iran, but reiterated its position that it supported a dual-track approach of both diplomacy and sanctions to address concerns over Iran's nuclear programme.

Officials said on Tuesday they hoped the deal would help promote a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue, amid growing calls from the West for a new round of sanctions on the country.

“China always believes that dialogue and negotiations is the best approach to settle the Iranian nuclear issue,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu. “We hope the agreement signed by Brazil, Turkey and Iran will help promote a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation.”

Mr. Ma stopped short of saying the deal would preclude the need for a new round of sanctions. “China has always adhered to a dual track strategy,” he said, in which diplomacy and negotiations would continue even as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) considered sanctions.

Speaking in Tunisia on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China welcomed the new deal, and “was ready to work with other relevant parties to play a constructive role in pushing for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.”

In recent years, the commercial relationship between Iran and China has grown closer, with Iran becoming the third-biggest source of crude oil for energy-hungry China last year. China this year became Iran's biggest trade partner, with bilateral trade crossing $ 21 billion in 2009, more than doubling from 2005.