IRAN-RUSSIA/NUCLEAR

OCTOBER 17 2007 14:54h

Putin Gave Special Atomic Message to Iran

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Putins visit to Tehran on Tuesday was watched closely because of Moscows possible leverage in the Islamic Republics nuclear row with West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a "special message" to Iran on its disputed atomic programme and other issues, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator told an Iranian news agency on Wednesday without giving details.

Putin's one-day visit to Tehran on Tuesday was watched closely because of Moscow's possible leverage in the Islamic Republic's nuclear row with the West.

Iran rejects U.S. accusations it is seeking to develop atomic weapons and has refused to heed U.N. Security Council demands to halt sensitive nuclear work. Some analysts said Putin could use his talks in Iran to seek a diplomatic compromise.

The Russian president, who has said he has seen no evidence that Tehran's programme has military aims, met Iranian leaders including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters including nuclear policy.

"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, adding that the nuclear programme was part of it.

Khamenei said Iran will consider Putin's proposal, IRNA reported. Asked whether the message was about Iran's nuclear programme, Larijani said: "Yes, Iran's nuclear issue was also a part of it."

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

But it is resisting a push by the United States and its European allies for a third round of tougher steps aimed at punishing Iran for not stopping work that could be used to make bombs.

Iran says it wants to master nuclear technology so it can generate electricity and export more of its oil and gas.