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Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned against hastily imposing sanctions on Iran, but in a rare note of criticism he has also deplored Iranian calls for the destruction of Israel, according to remarks released by the Kremlin on Tuesday.
Putin, speaking on Saturday at a meeting with foreign political scholars, said that additional consultations were necessary to decide whether to proceed with sanctions on Iran over its uranium enrichment program. "It would be better if we can avoid any sanctions altogether," Putin said in remarks which were posted on the Kremlin Web site.
He said that Russia and other nations were urging Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment effort, but added that the Iranians have the right to acquire state-of-the art technologies.
"In that sense, they don't differ from Brazil or South Africa. But we must understand that neither Brazil, nor South Africa are setting the goal to destroy another state and are writing about it in their constitutions," he said in an apparent reference to Iranian leaders' repeated threats to destroy Israel. "Regrettably, the Iranian leaders are talking publicly about it, and that doesn't help international security or the foreign policy of the Iranian state itself."
Putin's remarks reflected the Kremlin's apparent frustration with Iran's stubborn refusal to bow to international demand to abandon its uranium enrichment which Western nations feared could lead to developing nuclear weapons.
At the same time, Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has been reluctant to support the United States' call for sanctions against Iran, an important economic partner.
Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran, to which the United States long objected, saying the plant could be used by Iran to produce fissionable material for weapons. Russia eventually worked out a deal with Iran for all the plant's spent fuel to be sent to Russia, eliminating the possibility that Iran could reprocess it for weapons.