Russia denies Putin gave Iran secret nuclear message

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MOSCOW, Nov 7 (Reuters) President Vladimir Putin gave Iran no secret messages about its nuclear programme during his recent visit to Tehran, a senior Russian diplomat said today.

Iran's then chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was quoted by Iran's official news agency on Oct 17 as saying Putin gave Iranian leaders a ''special message'' last month. He did not elaborate.

''There were no secret messages,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said when asked by Reuters about Putin's talks.

He said Putin pushed to resolve the Iranian problem through negotiations which stuck to the positions of the six-power mediators on Iran, the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

''We are acting along with the common position of the six, common to the UN Security Council and common to the ruling council of the IAEA,'' Kislyak told reporters after a debate in the Russian parliament.

''Our position is to resolve all the problems through negotiations,'' he said, when asked about Russian policy on Iran.

Putin's visit to Tehran, the first trip to Iran by a Russian leader since Josef Stalin went in 1943, raised speculation that Russia was seeking to find a compromise in the international stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The United States, Israel and leading European Union countries suspect Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb under cover of its civilian nuclear programme.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN security council, says there is no evidence Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says it has a right to its own civilian nuclear programme.

WIDER DEAL WITH WASHINGTON? Russian and international media speculated that Putin could have told Iran that if it gave up nuclear enrichment, the United States would open direct talks with Tehran.

Ali Larijani resigned as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator soon after making the comments about Putin, in what analysts described as a split with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Kremlin fears a military strike against Iran by the United States would spark a wider conflict close to its southern borders and Putin said this month that ''running around like a madman with a blade'' is not the best way to solve such issues.

Russia has opposed tougher sanctions on Iran and is helping to build Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr though it has repeatedly delayed sending nuclear fuel to the plant.

Some analysts have speculated that Putin could be seeking to use Moscow's leverage with Tehran to get assurances from Washington over US plans to deploy a missile defence shield in Europe and the future of Serbia's Kosovo province.

But Kyslyak dismissed suggestions of a wider deal. ''...It is not very serious because on every one of those problems Russia has a independent and principled position, as presumably the American side also have,'' he said.


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