China stuck to its long-held position that the dispute over Iran's nuclear program should be resolved through negotiations and not be brought before the U.N. Security Council.
The statement comes as diplomats gathered in Vienna for a 35-nation meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the European Union expected to warn Iran to change its ways or face the threat of referral to the U.N. Security Council.
"We have a consistent position on the Iranian nuclear issue," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao at a briefing.
"For the current stage, we should seek a proper solution within the framework of the IAEA," Liu said. "We don't think it is appropriate now to refer this question to the U.N. Security Council."
At issue is Iran's refusal to give up uranium enrichment, which can be used to generate power but also to make weapons-grade material for nuclear warheads. Iran says it wants only to make fuel, but international concern is growing that the program could be misused.
For months, Iran has relied on Beijing and Moscow, two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, to fend off a U.S.-backed push to have it hauled before the Council.
Currently, Iran's enrichment program is frozen. But negotiations between Iran and France, Britain and Germany the so-called EU-3 broke off in August after Iran restarted the conversion of raw uranium into the gas that is used as the feed stock in enrichment, the AP reports.
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23