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. No sign Iranian nuclear programme has military intent: Russia
MOSCOW, March 20 (AFP) Mar 20, 2009
Russia sees no sign that Iran's nuclear programme has a military purpose, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday.

"For the time being, we see no signs of a switch of this programme to military purposes.... And in this we're in full solidarity with the conclusions of the latest report of the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Ryabkov told journalists.

He was commenting after US President Barack Obama made a landmark statement on Iran urging "honest" engagement with Tehran and saying Washington was committed to pursuing "constructive ties" with the Islamic republic.

Ryabkov said Russia, which has relatively close ties with Iran, welcomed Obama's latest statement.

"We welcome it. The start of substantive dialogue will facilitate the revival of trust in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme," Ryabkov said.

On the vexed issue of US missile defence plans, which Moscow has vehemently opposed but which Washington insists are aimed exclusively at protecting against "rogue states" like Iran, Ryabkov said Russia was ready for cooperation.

Using idiomatic Russian he said however this cooperation must not be like that of an "outrunning" horse following the direction set by the main horse pulling the carriage.

Russia, a member of the United Nations Security Council, generally resisted the more hard-line approach against Iran taken by the former US administration of George W. Bush and is helping Tehran build a nuclear power station.

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