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. Putin meets Iranian counterpart amid tension over Tehran's nuclear program
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) Sep 15, 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met on the sidelines of the world summit here Thursday and stressed their common interests amid tension over Tehran's nuclear program.

"We have many common interests in the Caspian region," Putin said, and spoke of "a large volume of cooperation between the two countries."

But in their comments at the outset of their meeting, the two leaders made no direct reference to the standoff over Tehran's suspected weapons-related program.

Putin and Ahmadinejad began their meeting in the company of official delegations from the two countries, but later dismissed their teams and continued talks in a one-on-one format, accompanied by translators, officials said.

A Russian official who was present for the first half of the hour-long meeting said Putin and Ahmadinejad did not discuss Tehran's nuclear program.

Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran, a move which has sparked controversy as the United States and other Western countries accuse Iran of seeking to secretly build nuclear weapons.

But Moscow has indicated it will not support bringing Iran before the UN Security Council over its suspected weapons-related nuclear program as sought by the United States and its European allies.

Iran, which for the past two years has been negotiating over the issue with Britain, France and Germany, is also keen to widen the talks to include more sympathetic countries that include members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Putin said he was hopeful of positive developments in Iran under Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile the new Iranian leader said: "the interests of our countries in bilateral and multilateral affairs are very close."

"We have in the Caspian and other regions very many common interests," he added.

In Tehran, officials said Ahmadinejad would unveil new proposals on how to resolve a crisis over Iran's nuclear programme when he addresses the UN summit for a second time on Saturday.

Making his debut appearance on the international stage Wednesday, Ahmadinejad -- did not touch the thorny nuclear issue when he addressed the UN General Assembly and only lashed out at Western "interventionism".

As he exited a conference room after his talks with Putin, Ahmadinejad was swamped by reporters who prevented his movement along a corridor in the UN for several minutes as around two dozen security guards attempted to break up the logjam.

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