Russia said on Thursday it was in discussions with Iran on possible new nuclear power plants in the Islamic state, the country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.
"We are discussing these [new plants] with our Iranian partners, we are practically discussing this now," Lavrov said.
Earlier Thursday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that new United Nations sanctions against Tehran over its contentious nuclear program do not oblige Moscow to scrap a controversial deal to deliver surface-to-air missiles to Iran.
The clarification came after the Russian Interfax news agency cited an arms industry source as saying Russia would freeze its unfulfilled contract to sell S-300 missiles to Iran after the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told journalists, however, that the UN resolution does not apply to air-defense systems, with the exception of mobile missiles.
The report citing an unidentified source in Russia's arms industry contradicted Russian officials and others who have said the sanctions approved on Wednesday with Moscow's support would not affect the air-defense missile deal.
"The UN Security Council decision is binding for all countries and Russia is no exception," Interfax cited the source as saying. "Naturally, the contract to deliver S-300 missile systems will be frozen."
Russia has used its unfulfilled deal to provide Iran with S-300 missiles as a lever in its delicate diplomacy with Tehran and Western powers seeking to rein in Iran's nuclear activity, which they say is aimed at acquiring atomic weapons.
Israel and the United States have asked Russia not to deliver the missile systems, which can shoot down several aircraft or missiles simultaneously and could potentially be used to protect nuclear facilities.
Western diplomats in Moscow believe Russia is eager to keep the deal in reserve as a bargaining chip. Iran has expressed increasing frustration over the unfulfilled contract.
Russia's move toward support for the new sanctions against Iran has been accompanied by repeated assurances that the measures would not affect the S-300 deal.
The latest came on Thursday from the Kremlin-allied chairman of the International Affairs committee in Russia's lower parliament house. Konstantin Kosachyov said the S-300 is a defensive weapon and would not be affected, Itar-Tass reported.
In Washington, Republican U.S. Senator Jon Kyl criticized the UN sanctions resolution on Wednesday for excluding the S-300 deal and Russia's construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant near Bushehr.
Russia has close ties with Iran and has worked with China, also a veto-wielding UN Security Council member, to water down Western-backed sanctions resolutions against Tehran, including the latest one.
But Moscow has been increasingly critical of Tehran's rejection of a proposal to ease concerns about the purpose of its nuclear program by having uranium shipped to Russia for enrichment.
U.S. President Barack Obama has courted Russian support for the new sanctions, and administration officials have pointed to Moscow's backing as a positive result of a "reset" aimed to improve long-strained ties.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday warned Russia not to side with "Iran's enemies" by supporting the sanctions.
Officials said Ahmadinejad, unlike last year, would stay away from a summit of a Central Asian security organization led by Russia and China starting on Thursday in Uzbekistan.
Israel and U.S. hail UN vote, as Turkey calls it a 'mistake'
Israel and the United States hailed the United Nations vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, which immediately vowed to continue with its nuclear program.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the new sanctions a "positive" step, but expressed hope that it would lead countries to take broader economic and diplomatic measures, including sanctions on the Iranian energy sector.
"The UN Security Council resolution passed today, led by the determination of President Obama, is a positive step," Netanyahu said. "The resolution made clear to Iran that the world's leading powers oppose its nuclear program."
"The biggest danger to peace is that the most dangerous regimes in the world will use the most dangerous weapons of all. The international community needs to continue to keep the prevention of this threat at the top its agenda."
Netanyahu's words echoed an earlier statement by the Foreign Ministry that described UN Security Council resolution 1929 as an "important step." "It is of great importance to implement the decision fully and immediately," the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, said the sanctions "can serve as a viable platform for launching very far-reaching sanctions by the United States or like-minded nations against Iran."
Those sanctions could be aimed at Iran's ability to import gasoline, he said.
"They have a lot of oil, but not a lot of refined oil or the ability to export oil abroad," Oren said.
Obama, meanwhile, said the new sanctions send an "unmistakable message" that the international community will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Speaking shortly after the Security Council voted to impose some of the toughest sanctions on Iran so far, Obama faulted the Islamic state's leaders for failing to seriously address concerns about the country's nuclear activities.
"These are the most comprehensive sanctions that the Iranian government has faced," Obama said.
Turkey, which voted against the imposition of sanctions, called the UN move a "mistake" and said that together with Brazil it would continue to seek a diplomatic solution to remove concerns over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran on Wednesday rejected the resolution over its nuclear activities, vowing to continue enriching uranium. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed as "valueless" the resolution, which passed by 12 votes to two with one abstention, saying it should be thrown out.
"This resolution is not worth a penny for Iran and I sent a message to each one of them [UN Security Council members] that your resolution is like a used handkerchief which should go into a garbage can," the Iran Student News agency quoted him as saying.
"They [world powers] will not be able to harm us," added Ahmadinejad, who is currently on a visit in Tajikistan.
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the UN Security Council vote to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran a "wrong move".
"It was not a constructive step...to resolve the nuclear issue. It will make the situation more complicated," Mehmanparast said.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, said after the vote that Iran would not halt its nuclear enrichment activities. "Nothing will change. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue uranium enrichment activities," Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna shortly after the UN vote in New York
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