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. Putin positive on Iranian nuclear issue after meeting Ahmadinejad
SHANGHAI, June 15 (AFP) Jun 15, 2006
Iran has reacted positively to an offer of incentives to end its uranium enrichment programme, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday after meeting his Iranian counterpart.

"Concerning Iran I have a very positive feeling about this meeting," Putin said after meeting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) annual summit.

"Iran has reacted positively to the proposals of the six sides. Iran is ready to begin talks and in the near future I hope it will state its position on the timing of the start of the talks."

Putin was referring to offers to Iran of technical and commercial cooperation from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany in exchange for giving up its uranium enrichment.

Ahmadinejad characterized the proposal as a "step forward" in talks here with his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf, Iran's official IRNA agency reported Thursday.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao also told a briefing late Thursday that Iran was looking at the proposal "seriously."

"The Iranians might need some extra time," Liu said, describing a meeting between China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in Shanghai. "So on this issue we have to show patience."

Putin, who met Ahmadinejad for more than an hour, said as he went into the talks that Iran had the right to use nuclear technology.

"But they need to do it in a way that does not arouse concerns on the part of the international community," he said.

Ahmadinejad said before the talks with Putin that Iran would act in the interests of global peace.

"Concerning security policy, our cooperation can have a serious influence on the peace and security of the region... our cooperation will be in the interest of global peace and security," Ahmadinejad said.

"Our views and relationship are very close and long term and are developing in all spheres."

Iran also foresees cooperation with Russia in the natural gas sphere, Ahmadinejad said.

"Concerning energy, if we cooperate closely, we can achieve much more serious results," including in the gas sphere, he said.

After much diplomatic maneuvering, Russia and China finally sided with the United States, France, Germany and Britain in offering Iran this month the package of incentives.

Iran, which claims its nuclear program is strictly for energy use and not an weapons program as the West fears, has given mixed signals in recent days over the offer.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in Madrid on Wednesday that the offer was "very positive" and would be examined seriously.

But Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday his country would not bow to international pressure over its nuclear program, according to Iranian state television.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not bend to these pressures, and the continuation of this scientific progress is its fundamental and basic right," Khamenei reportedly said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is scheduled to meet Ahmadinejad on Friday morning.

The SCO groups China and Russia with the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran is one of four observer nations to the group.

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