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Russia says still room for diplomacy with Iran

An Iranian operator (R) and a Russian operator monitor the nuclear power plant unit in Bushehr, about 1,215 km (755 miles) south of Tehran, November 30, 2009. REUTERS/ISNA/Mehdi Ghasemi

PARIS (Reuters) - Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday there was still room for diplomacy rather than sanctions to produce a solution to the dispute with Iran over its nuclear program.

“We will concentrate all efforts on finding political and diplomatic solutions. These efforts have not yet been exhausted,” Lavrov told journalists during a trip to Paris.

Lavrov said his comments were in line with a statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who on Monday said Moscow would back new sanctions against Iran as long as they did not create a humanitarian crisis.

Lavrov is accompanying Medvedev on an official visit to France for talks that touched on Iran sanctions.

After meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Medvedev said he still hoped to avoid new punitive measures, but added Russia could not wait forever for cooperation by Tehran, suspected by the West of developing nuclear weapons.

Both Russia and China have been reluctant in the past to endorse any broader sanctions against Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons.

A draft fourth Security Council resolution is expected as soon as this week. Some Western diplomats have predicted it would contain a “symbolic” tightening of sanctions against Iranian government assets.

Reporting by Denis Dyomkin, writing Conor Sweeney; Editing by Jon Boyle