China on Wednesday called on Iran and the UN atomic watchdog to cooperate over a new uranium enrichment plant, amid mounting international tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme.
The comments came as US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met Chinese leaders to try to press the case for sanctions on Iran, which Beijing -- a key consumer of Iranian oil -- has repeatedly opposed.
"We hope Iran and the IAEA will stress cooperation and earnestly carry out the safeguards and clarify pending issues in the Iranian nuclear programme as soon as possible," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Iran has begun enriching uranium to up to 20 percent at a new plant in a fortified bunker sunk into a mountain.
Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, has repeatedly said it will not abandon uranium enrichment despite four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions demanding Tehran desist.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the confirmation Iran was enriching uranium was "especially troubling", again calling on Tehran to cease all such work.
Russia, which has relatively close ties with Iran, has also voiced concern over the new plant, while Britain and France are also pushing for stronger economic sanctions to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear programme.
But Iran has threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz if oil sanctions are imposed over its nuclear programme, sparking concern in China.