Iran Nuclear NewsDiplomat denies Putin gave Iran secret message

Diplomat denies Putin gave Iran secret message

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Reuters: President Vladimir Putin gave Iran no secret messages about its disputed nuclear program during a visit last month but pressed Tehran to resolve the issue through negotiations, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday. By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin gave Iran no secret messages about its disputed nuclear program during a visit last month but pressed Tehran to resolve the issue through negotiations, a senior Russian diplomat said on Wednesday.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator at the time, was quoted by Iran’s official news agency on October 17 as saying Putin gave Iranian leaders a “special message”. He did not elaborate.

“There were no secret messages,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said when asked by Reuters about Putin’s talks.

He said Putin pushed to resolve the Iranian problem through negotiations that stuck to the positions of the six-power mediators on Iran, the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We are acting along with the common position of the six, common to the U.N. Security Council and common to the ruling council of the IAEA,” Kislyak told reporters after a debate in the Russian parliament.

“Our position is to resolve all the problems through negotiations,” he said, when asked about Russian policy on Iran.

Putin’s visit to Tehran, the first trip to Iran by a Russian leader since Josef Stalin in 1943, raised speculation that Russia was seeking to find a compromise in the stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The United States, Israel and leading European Union countries suspect Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb under cover of its civilian atomic program. Iran denies such intent.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, says there is no evidence that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and has held up Western efforts to impose harsher sanctions on Iran. Tehran says it has a right to its own peaceful nuclear energy.

Iran pledged in August to clear up IAEA questions about the secret development of its program but still refuses to halt enrichment as demanded by the Security Council. The IAEA will report in mid-November on how much Iran has cooperated.

FEARS OF WIDER CONFLICT

Russian and international media speculated that Putin might have told Iran that if, it gave up nuclear enrichment, the United States would open direct talks with Tehran.

The Kremlin fears that a U.S. military strike against Iran would spark a wider conflict close to its southern borders.

Russia is helping to build Iran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr, although it has delayed providing nuclear fuel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted during a visit to Tehran last month that Iran had so far failed to ease concerns in the IAEA about its nuclear program.

Some analysts have speculated that Putin could be seeking to use Moscow’s influence with Tehran to secure assurances from Washington over U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Europe and the future of Serbia’s Kosovo province.

Kislyak dismissed suggestions of a wider deal. “…It is not very serious because, on every one of those problems, Russia has a independent and principled position, as presumably the American side also have,” he said.

A diplomat close to the IAEA said its Director Mohamed ElBaradei had considered paying a visit to Tehran in the near future but decided the time was not right.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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