China says it has not changed its mind in backing new sanctions over Iran. A Foreign Ministry official says that Beijing's vote to punish Tehran over its nuclear program does not mean the door has been closed on negotiations.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad heads to China to visit the Iranian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, and his arrival coincides with a developing rift between Tehran and Beijing.
China voted Wednesday in the United Nations Security Council to impose more sanctions against Tehran because of its nuclear program. The vote prompted harsh criticism from Iranian officials.
Ahead of Mr. Ahmadinejad's arrival, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Thursday shrugged off Iran's anger.
And he rejected comments that China had made a u-turn over sanctions. Beijing opposed them for months, insisting diplomacy was needed to resolve the issue.
Qin denies China changed its mind over sanctions, saying Beijing believes such punishment will bring Iran back to the negotiation table. He says China's starting point has always been to prevent nuclear proliferation and safeguard peace in the Middle East.
Qin says China's vote for sanctions reflects not only Beijing's position but also the concern of the international community.
China could have vetoed the resolution to punish one of its chief oil suppliers.
But it has been under immense pressure from the international community, including the United States and Israel, to fall into line and impose restrictions that target Iran's military and nuclear-related investments.
The U.S. and many other nations say that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Qin says President Ahmadinejad will not meet with senior Chinese officials during his two-day stay in China.