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Putin: Iran gave N-power assurance

Putin
Putin told his annual press conference that Iran has repeated its reassurance

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Iran recently assured Moscow that it has no plans to develop nuclear weapons and will fully comply with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog group, says Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Two days ago, I spoke to [Iranian President Mohammad] Khatami... and he confirmed once again to me that Iran does not have any plans to develop nuclear weapons," Putin said Friday, during his annual face-the-press meeting.

"The leadership of Iran is ready to fully join all the protocols and requirements of IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]... from the viewpoint of control over its nuclear programs."

Russia has long supported Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is strictly for civilian use, helping to build its $800 million nuclear plant at Bushehr on the Gulf coast.

U.S. President George W. Bush has pushed for a harder line on Iran, a nation he combined with North Korea and Iraq as the "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address, rejecting Iranian insistence that it is developing nuclear programs to provide electricity.

Putin said Moscow and Washington were not in total disagreement over the nuclear issue in Iran.

"Russia's position and the position of the U.S. on this regard is much closer than it seems at close glance," Putin said, noting that both countries are "against spread of weapons of mass destruction on our planet."

On Thursday, the IAEA issued a report at the end of two days of debate about Iran's nuclear program. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Iran had failed to report to the agency some of its nuclear materials as well as some of its nuclear facilities. (Full Story)

However, the United States was unsuccessful in its attempt to get the IAEA's board of governors to declare that Iran is in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The United States also wants the IAEA to demand unconditional access to Iran's nuclear facilities.

Khatami has said Iran, a signatory of the NPT, will sign the IAEA's additional protocol -- which would allow the agency unfettered access to facilities with little notice -- only when the international community keeps to its obligations under the NPT and transfers nuclear know-how for peaceful purposes.

Many Iranians back a robust nuclear policy, even a nuclear weapons program, saying they do not see why Iran should not be a nuclear power when Pakistan, India, and the bigger world powers all have nuclear weapons. Israel is also suspected of having nuclear bombs.


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