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. Russian FM calls for talks with Iran on nuclear issue
PARIS, March 11 (AFP) Mar 11, 2008
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday urged the international community to do "everything possible" to engage Iran in negotiations over its contested nuclear programme.

"We must seek an innovative approach. This means first and foremost doing everything possible -- and even impossible -- to begin discussions with Iran," said Lavrov in Paris.

The Russian foreign minister was speaking after talks with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner.

In an apparent message to Syria, Lavrov also warned against any interference in the crisis in Lebanon, which has been without a president since November.

"There must be absolutely no meddling, regardless of where it comes from, in solving this problem," he said.

Lavrov's comments on Iran came a week after the UN Security Council tightened sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to heed the world body's calls to freeze uranium enrichment, a potential weapons-making process.

Iran on Sunday said it would only hold talks over its nuclear programme if world powers stopped threatening it with further punitive measures.

"The time of using the policy of the carrot and the stick has ended," Javad Vaeedi, a top national security official, said in Tehran.

"If they (the West) want to have serious negotiations, in fair conditions and taking into account the interests of the two parties, they must first stop threatening."

In response to the Security Council resolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rejected new talks with the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana -- who has represented world powers in past discussions on the nuclear crisis.

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