China said on Tuesday it was considering whether or not to attend a nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran later this month, after Iran said the Chinese would take part.
Iran, embroiled in a deepening nuclear row with the West, says experts and officials from 60 countries have been invited to the April 17-18 meeting in Tehran, called “Nuclear energy for everyone, nuclear arms for no one”.
The meeting will be held just days after Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to attend a nuclear security summit in Washington.
Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was quoted as saying on Sunday by the official IRNA news agency that China would take part.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China’s participation was not a done deal.
“We have received the invitation and are now studying it,” Jiang told a news briefing without elaborating.
Iran rejects Western accusations it is seeking to develop nuclear bombs, saying its atomic work is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.
China, which buys large amounts of oil from Iran, has for months fended off Western calls to back further U.N. Security Council sanctions on the Islamic state.
But in moves last week that could ease strained Sino-U.S. ties, China announced Hu would attend a April 12-13 nuclear security summit in Washington, while its diplomats signalled readiness to join serious talks with Western powers on new sanctions on Iran.
China is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, each wielding the power to veto any resolution and thus block proposed U.N. sanctions.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Huang Yan; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison)