Putin gave Iran "special" atomic message: report

TEHRAN Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:47am EDT

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during an official meeting in Tehran October 16, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during an official meeting in Tehran October 16, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Iran a "special message" on its disputed atomic program and other issues, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator was quoted as saying on Wednesday, without giving details.

Putin's visit to Tehran on Tuesday was watched closely because of Moscow's possible leverage in the Islamic Republic's nuclear row with the West. It was the first time a Kremlin chief went to Iran since Josef Stalin in 1943.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, has been alarmed by the possibility that the United States might launch a military attack on Iran. Some political analysts had said before Putin's visit to the Iranian capital that he might use the opportunity to seek a diplomatic compromise.

Iran rejects U.S. accusations that it is seeking to develop atomic weapons and has refused to heed U.N. Security Council demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.

Putin, who has said he has seen no evidence that Tehran's program has military aims, met Iranian leaders including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran's top cleric has final say on all state matters including nuclear policy.

During the visit, Putin made clear to Washington that Russia would not accept military action against Iran and he invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Moscow for talks.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his trip to Tehran, had a special message for Iranian officials," chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani told Iran's official IRNA news agency.

Asked whether it was about Iran's nuclear activities, he said: "Yes, Iran's nuclear issue was also a part of it."

IRAN "DETERMINED"

Khamenei said Iran, which insists it wants to master nuclear technology so that it can generate electricity and export more of its oil and gas, would consider Putin's proposal.

"We will think about what you said and your proposal," he told Putin, state broadcaster IRIB reported. Khamenei also said Iran was "determined to provide our country's need for nuclear energy."

In Jerusalem, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would meet Putin in Russia on Thursday for talks on issues including "Iran's threats and its attempt to equip itself with nuclear weapons."

Olmert's spokeswoman said she was sure Putin's visit to Iran would be discussed but it had not prompted the visit.

Russia, which is building Iran's first atomic power plant, has backed two sets of limited U.N. sanctions on Iran.

However, it is resisting a push by the United States and its European Union allies for a third round of tougher steps to put pressure Iran to stop work that could lead to bomb-making.

As a result, major powers have agreed to delay new sanctions until November to see if Iran's deal with U.N. inspectors to clear up suspicions about its intentions yields results and to await a report by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Washington has refused to rule out the use of force if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.

Larijani said he would meet Solana on October 23 in Rome.

(Additional reporting by Zahra Hosseinian)

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