Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signaled his country is ready to consider new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, in an apparent shift of policy.

The Russian leader told reporters Monday at the start of a state visit to France that it would be "desirable" to avoid sanctions — and insisted that any should not harm the Iranian population.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters on Monday that France and Russia have "extremely close" positions regarding sanctions against Iran, according to Reuters. The comments came after a meeting between Sarkozy and Medvedev.

France is pushing for tough new sanctions against Iran to punish Tehran for its nuclear program, and has become increasingly impatient about Tehran's alleged defiance of U.N. rules aimed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Russia, which does significant trade with Iran, said last week it would not accept "crippling" sanctions against Iran.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.