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. Iran nuclear talks should continue, Putin tells Ahmadinejad
MOSCOW, Oct 30 (AFP) Oct 30, 2006
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday that Moscow favours continued talks over Iran's nuclear programme amid a continued split in the UN Security Council over possible sanctions against Tehran.

In a telephone conversation, "Putin put forward the principled position of Russia in favour of continuing the process of negotiations during a discussion of the situation surrounding Iran's nuclear programme," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

Western powers at the UN Security Council have been pushing for sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, but Russia and China have been reluctant to vote for a severe set of penalties against Tehran.

Iran has stepped up its research into the sensitive activity as diplomats have warned it could take several weeks to reach an agreement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week rejected the proposed sanctions, arguing that they did not advance objectives agreed on by six leading world powers concerned with the case.

The Chinese stance has yet to become clear, although Beijing -- like Moscow -- is an economic ally of Iran and traditionally reluctant to use sanctions for diplomatic leverage.

A text drafted by Britain, France and Germany in consultations with Washington provides for a freeze of assets related to Iran's ballistic missile programme and nuclear industry as well as travel bans on scientists.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Sunday said it was clear that there was a split between the stances of China and Russia on one hand and Europe and the US on the other.

"These two countries have completely different positions to the Europeans. Russia does not want sanctions and does not want to close the path of negotiations, and the Chinese have a similar position," he said.

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