Putin objects to sanctions against Iran

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LISBON, Oct 26 (Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin objected on Thursday to new sanctions against Iran, saying such action would put Iran in a corner over its nuclear programme.

''Why should we make the situation worse, corner it, (Iran) threatening new sanctions?'' Putin told reporters during a visit to Lisbon.

His remark followed an announcement by the United States that it would slap a new set of unilateral sanctions against Tehran, which it suspects of trying to make a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Russia, which is helping Iran build a nuclear power station, has backed the United Nations' two sets of mild sanctions, intended to encourage Tehran to cooperate more with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, Russia said it would not back any further sanctions unless the IAEA said Tehran was not cooperating or the UN nuclear watchdog finds that Iran's programme had military goals.

''Running around like a mad man with a blade in one's hand is not the best way to solve such problems,'' he told a news conference with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, has enough power to block further U.N.

sanctions against Iran.

Moscow has been increasingly concerned by Washington's efforts to put pressure on Iran with sanctions, bypassing the United Nations and saying such efforts undermine joint efforts to solve Tehran's nuclear issue.

Putin met top Iranian officials last week when he attended a Caspian Sea conference in Tehran. He said he urged them to respect their commitments under a nuclear non-proliferation pact.

''We categorically object (to) violating basic international norms concerning non-proliferation,'' Putin said.

Iran is one of the issues which will be discussed during a EU-Russia summit on Friday in Portugal.

The disagreements also include the future of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo, and Russian and European energy and investment policies.

Putin said negotiations were the only way to solve Iran's nuclear standoff.

''Recently it seemed impossible to solve North Korea's nuclear problem,'' he said. ''However, we practically solved it or came close to it using peaceful means.'' Reuters SZ VP0205

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