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. Putin says Iran cooperating, sanctions could cause new problems
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 18, 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Iran was cooperating "sufficiently" with the United Nations watchdog over its suspected drive to build nuclear weapons and warned UN sanctions could cause fresh problems, in a US television interview broadcast Sunday.

With Europe and the United States pressing for Iran's case to be sent to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, Putin said United Nations pressure would be hard to accept for Moscow, which is helping Iran build a new nuclear plant.

"Today the Iranian side is working sufficiently in cooperation with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Authority)," Putin told Fox News television. "So let's proceed with the circumstances of today."

When asked about sanctions, he said, though an interpreter, "There will be more problems that we can probably reach a dead end."

Putin highlighted a meeting he held with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York last Thursday.

"He assured me that the Iranian side wants to continue negotiations with the European three at least, and we are going to proceed from there."

The interview was recorded before Ahmadinejad told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that Iran would carry on trying to produce nuclear fuel.

Britain, France and Germany have led European negotiations with Iran, trying to persuade the Islamic Republic to suspend its nuclear programme. The European trio and United States have threatened to seek UN sanctions unless Iran cooperates.

Russia is building a nuclear power plant for Iran at Bushehr, a move which has caused controversy as the Western countries accuse Iran of seeking to secretly develop a nuclear weapon capability.

"We stand ready to coordinate our activities with both our American and European partners," Putin said in the interview.

"And I must say that our positions here are quite close. At any rate we have a joint position on one major issue: that were are categorically against the proliferation of nuclear arms by Iran."

Putin said that "Iran has erred several times in their relations with IAEA" but he added that the regime has "opened all of their works, and now they are openly cooperating with inspectors of IAEA, also regarding the past record, and I hope these dynamics will continue."

Iran was one of the main topics discussed when Putin met President George W. Bush at the White House on Friday.

The US president afterwards reaffirmed his desire for action against Iran, saying: "I am confident that the world will see to it that Iran goes to the UN Security Council if it does not live up to its agreements."

When questioned about Iraq, Putin showed a more flexible stance on his past demands for the United States to set a timetable for a troop withdrawal.

Bush has said a hasty withdrawal will encourage the insurgency in Iraq, and Putin conceded there is "logic" in this argument.

Putin said, "On our part, we proceed from the assumption that sooner or later foreign troops will anyway have to leave Iraq.

"In our opinion, the fact of their presence there pushes armed opposition to perpetrate acts of violence. So this should be a balanced decision."

Putin said a US withdrawal would depend on the abilities of Iraqi security forces, but added: "I believe it should be within 12 months or more, 24 months, something like that."

"It will all depend on the specific situation in Iraq. But it would be right if we were to define those time frames. That would introduce some order and make everybody move in the right direction. Without it, there will be no obligations to be fulfilled."

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