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Putin: Step carefully with Iran

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday his nation's position on how to handle the Iranian nuclear standoff is similar to that of the United States and some European countries.

"Russia, the Federal Republic (of Germany), and our European partners, and the United States have a very close position on the Iranian problem," he said.

"In the Iranian nuclear issue, we need to work very carefully and without taking any abrupt, erroneous steps," Putin said Monday after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The United States and the three European nations that conducted failed negotiations with Iran -- Britain, France and Germany, known as the EU3 -- want Iran to halt all nuclear activity.

They are concerned Iran might try to build a nuclear weapon under the guise of a nuclear energy program.

Iran denies the allegation. Putin has said he does not believe Iran seeks a nuclear weapon.

The United States and the EU3 want the issue to come before the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions against Iran. But Russia, one of the council's five permanent members, has veto power and could block sanctions. Moscow has close economic ties with Tehran.

Putin has made offers to Iran in hopes of ending the standoff, which Tehran turned down. One of them was to allow Iran to create nuclear fuel on Russian territory.

Although Tehran publicly rejected that proposal, insisting it has the right to create nuclear fuel at home, Putin said Monday that Iran might yet agree to conduct uranium enrichment on Russian territory.

"We have heard different opinions expressed by our Iranian partners. One of them has been recently voiced by the Foreign Ministry of Iran. Our partners said that they do not rule out the possibility of putting our proposal into practice," Putin said, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

"Uranium enrichment is one of the central problems" in Iran's nuclear dossier, he said.

Iran resumed operations at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant last week, sparking the EU3 to support turning the case over to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which could then forward it to the U.N. Security Council.

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