Putin: Russia opposes force, sanctions on Iran
Russian PM: Moscow has no grounds to doubt Iran's claim that its nuclear program is purely peaceful.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday warned against using force or new sanctions against Iran for its defiance over its nuclear program, saying Moscow has no evidence that Tehran is seeking nuclear arms.
Iran has refused to provide the international community with details of its nuclear activities, which the United States and other nations say are aimed at developing weapons.
Putin said, however, that Moscow has no grounds to doubt Iran's claim that its nuclear program is purely peaceful, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Putin said, according to Peskov, that any use of force, delivering any kind of strike, won't help, won't solve the problem. On the contrary, it will hurt the entire region. As for sanctions, they won't bring the desired effect.
Putin was speaking at a meeting of foreign experts on Russia.
According to other meeting participants, Putin also said Russia does not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran, and that Iran needs to answer international concerns about its activities.
Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant in Iran, has made similar comments in the past, and has repeatedly warned against any attack on Iran.
But Putin's remarks Friday could disappoint U.S. and Israeli officials, who have urged the Kremlin to put more pressure on Iran.
Participants in the meeting said Putin dodged a question about media reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Moscow this week, including speculation that Netanyahu wanted to warn Russia of an impending strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Kremlin spokesman Alexei Pavlov said he had no information that Netanyahu was in Moscow, but Russian officials have stopped short of outright denying the visit took place.
The United States and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers - including Russia - and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities. It has already defied three sets of UN Security Council sanctions since 2006 for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.
Russia, which holds veto power on the UN Security Council, backed those sanctions but used its clout to water down tougher U.S. proposals. Russian officials have said too much pressure would be counterproductive.
This week, Iran offered a counterproposal for new wide-ranging negotiations, but provided no details of its nuclear program, according to a copy published by an investigative group.
U.S. officials have said the Iranian proposal falls short of satisfying international demands, but Russian media have suggested Moscow was less critical. According to Ekho Moskvy radio, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday that Iran's proposal included worthwhile elements and could be worked with.