China, Iran Discuss Nuclear Ties

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BEIJING - China invited Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, to Beijing on Thursday for discussions on the country's nuclear program, Iranian state-run Press satellite television reported.

The announcement follows a joint press conference on Wednesday by the U.S. and France calling for stronger U.N. sanctions against Iran.

"My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring," Obama told reporters during the lengthy press conference that covered a myriad of other topics.

Iran claims its nuclear program is strictly intended to meet the nation's energy needs, but frequent statements by the Islamic Republic's senior officials indicate otherwise.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said China indicated it might be ready to talk about sanctions.

China and Russia have been unwilling to agree to further sanctions against Iran.

"China has agreed to sit down and begin serious negotiations in New York with other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council," Rice told reporters on Wednesday, adding that "all of the evidence indicates the program is not as they [Iranian leaders] state, for peaceful purposes only, that there is a military element to it."

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said his country opposes nuclear weapons, but favors diplomacy over sanctions.

"We will continue to work with all parties toward the solution of the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic and peaceful means," Gang told the press.

Meanwhile, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said while his country prefers diplomatic discussions, it would not rule out the possibility of agreeing to tougher sanctions.

"We are convinced that sanction is not an optimal path," Medvedev said on Saturday during remarks to Arab League member nations in Libya. "But at the same time, such scenario cannot be ruled out."

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CNN and Xinhua News contributed to this report.

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