Putin keeps Russia's options open on Iran


Thu Apr 27, 2006 3:34 PM IST

TOMSK, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia was ready for any agreed diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis, keeping his options open ahead of key deliberations by the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking in the Siberian city of Tomsk after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said: "A diplomatic option suggests different ways to react. We will discuss this issue with our European partners, the United States and the international community as a whole."

"We will cooperate with all our partners. But today it is too early to say what decisions we can come to. The most important for us now is that whatever decisions are made they should be coordinated," he told a news conference.

Unlike several of his ministers, Putin did not explicitly rule out the future use of sanctions until there was proof of Western suspicions that Tehran was trying to build an atomic weapon.

Putin appeared to be keen to leave all options open before Friday when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports on whether Iran is meeting U.N. Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment.

Reiterating Moscow's position, he said: "We oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction including by Iran. But we believe Iran should have an opportunity to develop peaceful nuclear energy projects."

Washington, backed by Britain and France, has been pushing for sanctions if, as it expects, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reports that Iran has flouted U.N. demands. But Russia and China, the Security Council's other two veto-holding permanent members, have opposed any embargo.