President George W. Bush told China he was willing to solve the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue, state media reported on Friday, an approach long promoted by Beijing.
Bush also hopes the United Nations keeps taking "necessary action" to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program, the official Xinhua news agency said in a report carried on the front page of Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily.
"The Chinese side has all along upheld peacefully resolving the Iran nuclear question through diplomatic negotiations, so as to protect regional peace and stability, which will meet the interests of all the parties concerned," it quoted Chinese President Hu Jintao as telling Bush.
"China is willing to continue to play a constructive role to help solve the issue," Hu added.
China has so far resisted calls to support sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, wary of impeding growing Chinese energy and economic interests in the country.
After a U.S. intelligence assessment released Monday said Iran had likely stopped a nuclear weapons program four years ago, China's stance has been ambiguous.
Beijing's ambassador to the United Nations said that after the report "things have changed," suggesting his country may not back fresh sanctions on Iran.
Six-party talks and North Korea
Since then, however, Chinese diplomats have retreated to stock calls for negotiations, leaving unclear whether Beijing would wield its power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to veto new sanctions demanding that Iran stop uranium enrichment, which Washington and its allies still want.
But China and the United States have worked closely over North Korea's nuclear plans.
Beijing has hosted many rounds of so-called "six-party talks" between the two Koreas, Japan, Russia as well as the United States to get North Korea to account for and give up its atomic program.
Bush told Hu that "the six-party talks are the best way to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," Xinhua said.
"The United States highly appreciates the important role China has played in this regard, and is willing to cooperate with other parties to push forward the six-party talks," it paraphrased Bush as saying.