BEIJING  - China announced Friday it was sending an envoy to Iran, as tensions mount over the Islamic republic’s atomic programme and speculation Israel may launch a military strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Assistant foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu will visit Iran on February 12. and 13 to exchange views on the issue, ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters. “Dialogue and cooperation is the only right way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue,” Liu said.  “We are ready to work together with the parties concerned to seek an early resumption of talks between the P5-plus-one countries and Iran.” Liu was referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - and Germany, all of which have urged Tehran to increase transparency in its nuclear programmes.Liu urged Iran to step up its cooperation with the IAEA, the UN atomic watchdog.Beijing’s economic ties with Tehran have expanded in recent years, partly thanks to the withdrawal of Western companies in line with the sanctions against Iran.Concerned about Iran’s atomic activities, the United States, the European Union and others have ramped up sanctions to target Tehran’s oil industry and central bank.The latest round of punitive measures comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November said it had evidence that “indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device.”