Putin Meets With Iran's Top Nuke Negotiator

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday voiced hope for a quick resumption of international talks on Iran's nuclear program, news reports said.

"We will push for our common goal — the resumption of talks with six nations," Lavrov said after Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, according to the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies.

The two days of talks between Larijani and Russian officials signaled a strong Kremlin effort to persuade Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment effort, but it has remained unclear whether it has made any success. Previous Russian efforts to put pressure on Tehran have brought no visible result.

Larijani remained defiant after the first round of meetings with Russian officials Friday, saying Tehran would push ahead with its controversial nuclear program, and suggesting it could break off ties with the U.N. nuclear watchdog if the world inflicted punishments proposed by European nations.

Larijani did not make any public statements Saturday, and officials at the Iranian Embassy in Moscow could not be reached for comment.

Lavrov said after Saturday's talks that Russia and Iran would make efforts to restart talks between Tehran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany.

"In the nearest days, we will continue contacts with members of the six, which have offered Iran certain ideas as a basis for talks," Lavrov said. "Iran has responded to these proposals, and we think it's possible, if there is goodwill, to find a mutually acceptable basis for the resumption of talks on the basis of the proposals of the six and Iran's response to them."

The five Security Council members and Germany offered Iran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment effort. But Tehran has said it would continue enrichment, a process that is central to both civilian power generation and the production of nuclear weapons.

Larijani said Friday that Iran wanted negotiations to ease the mounting standoff over fears it is seeking nuclear weapons, but that it would not abandon what he insisted was a peaceful nuclear energy program.

He said Iran was prepared to renew negotiations with the European Union's top diplomat, Javier Solana, or to hold talks "in any other format," according to Russian news agencies.

The European draft resolution that would impose U.N. sanctions on Iran "will not promote a political solution of the problem," Larijani said Friday. He warned that Tehran would reconsider its ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the council adopted the European proposal.

The European draft resolution would order all countries to ban the supply of material and technology that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, measures that could damage Russia's nuclear and arms-industry ties with Tehran.

"We will reconsider relations with the IAEA if the United Nations passes the ... resolution ignoring Russia's amendments," he was quoted as saying. Iran has repeatedly threatened to respond to sanctions by blocking IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Lavrov said Saturday that the Iranian problem "should be solved on the basis of international law, taking into account rights and duties of all members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and relying on professional and unbiased assessments of the IAEA's experts."

The nonproliferation treaty allows for peaceful nuclear power programs, but Iran's activities and its secrecy have led to fears it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear power plant and strongly supports Iran's right to nuclear energy, but has joined the United States and Europe in demanding it halt enrichment in order to ease concerns. However, Moscow has rejected the European draft, urging revisions including the removal of all references to the plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr.

While they recently agreed in principle on sanctions, both Russia and China have publicly pushed for dialogue instead of U.N. punishment, despite the collapse last month of a European Union attempt to entice Iran into talks. Both countries have major commercial ties with Iran, and can veto U.N. Security Council resolutions as permanent members.