China said on Tuesday there was still time to reach a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme after France urged its European partners to ready new sanctions against Tehran.
"Negotiations and dialogue are the best way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters. "At present, relevant parties are still engaged in diplomatic efforts and there is still room for diplomatic efforts."
France's European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche on Monday urged European Union nations to prepare new sanctions against Tehran, saying they were needed because of "Iran's refusal of all offers of a solution" made by the West.
Washington and its Western allies fear Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment programme -- a charge denied by Tehran. China, a close ally of Iran and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has always favoured diplomacy over sanctions.
"The current priority is that all parties concerned should proceed from the larger interest, step up diplomatic efforts, and adopt more flexibility and pragmatism to push forward the negotiations," Ma said.