Russia's Lavrov to meet Ahmadinejad on Tuesday

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TEHRAN, Oct 30 (Reuters) Russia's foreign minister is due to hold talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran today, less than a week after Moscow criticised new US sanctions against the Islamic state over its nuclear work.

Iranian officials said Sergei Lavrov would meet Ahmadinejad at 2130 hrs IST.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry chief spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said the visit would discuss Iran's nuclear activities, which the West suspects are aimed at making bombs, as well as bilateral questions.

''A number of issues connected to the situation around Iran's nuclear programme, and a number of questions of bilateral cooperation, will be discussed,'' Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Iran rejects Western accusations it is seeking to build atom bombs and has refused to halt its nuclear programme.

The United States last week imposed new sanctions on Iran and accused its Revolutionary Guards of spreading weapons of mass destruction. Russian President Vladimir Putin said such moves only forced Tehran into a corner.

It was not clear whether Lavrov and Ahmadinejad would hold a press conference after their discussions.

Their meeting coincides with a new round of talks in Tehran between officials from Iran and the UN nuclear agency watchdog on implementing an August agreement aimed at clearing up past suspicions about the country's nuclear ambitions.

Russia believes dialogue rather than more punishment or military action is the way forward. Visiting Tehran two weeks ago, Putin told Washington that Moscow would not accept military action against Iran.

Russia is building Iran's first atomic power plant in Bushehr.

Western powers fear Tehran's pursuit of nuclear-generated electricity is a precursor to building an atom bomb. Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes.

REUTERS PD SSC1402

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