Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday held talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator - a move that signaled a serious Kremlin effort to force Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment program.
Putin met with Ali Larijani at his country residence outside Moscow, the Kremlin press office said in a statement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and presidential Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov also were taking part in the talks, it said.
After a first round of meetings with Lavrov and Ivanov on Friday, Larijani said Teheran would push ahead with its controversial nuclear program, and suggested it could break off ties with the UN nuclear watchdog if the world inflicts punishments proposed by European nations.
In a familiar mix of threats and offers, Larijani said Iran wanted negotiations to ease the mounting standoff over fears it is seeking nuclear weapons, but that it would not abandon what he insisted was a peaceful nuclear energy program.