Russian and Iranian officials started talks Monday on Russia's offer to enrich uranium for Iran, a proposal aimed at defusing the international crisis over concerns that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

Before the meeting, Russia's foreign minister conceded that Moscow had limited hopes for the talks.

"Honestly speaking, we have modest expectations, but we will make every effort to avoid an escalation of the situation and the use of force," Sergey Lavrov told a government meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin in televised comments.

The top Iranian negotiator, Ali Hosseinitash, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said beforehand he believed an agreement was possible. He cautioned, however, against linking the Russian plan to demands for Iran to restore a freeze on uranium enrichment, Russian news agencies reported.

"The negotiations with Russia do not foresee any preconditions," Hosseinitash said, according to ITAR-Tass. He added that there was no link "between the moratorium on uranium enrichment and talks on the Russian plan."