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Israeli PM pushes for Iran sanctions in Russia meet

In this handout photo provided by the Israeli government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday.
In this handout photo provided by the Israeli government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday.
  • Source in Kremlin: Iran nuclear program discussed
  • Russia shares some trade, energy interests with Iran
  • Moscow has used its U.N. vote to shield Iran from sanctions
  • Iran: We can enrich uranium to point of sustaining nuclear reaction

Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday during a quick visit to Moscow to lobby for stronger sanctions on Iran.

"Israel believes that strong pressure must be applied to Iran, especially very sharp sanctions, which United States Secretary of State (Hillary) Clinton referred to as 'crippling sanctions,'" Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office announcing the trip.

While specific details about the meetings were not released, a source in the Kremlin told Itar-Tass, a major Russian news agency, that Iran's nuclear program was discussed.

Russia shares some common trade and energy interests with Iran, and in the past has used its veto vote at the U.N. Security Council to often shield Iran from strict sanctions. However, in recent weeks, the Kremlin has indicated that tougher sanctions may be a realistic response to Tehran moving forward with its nuclear enrichment program.

Iran already faces U.N. sanctions. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, Russia, China, and France, all of which have veto power -- have been in discussions about possible further sanctions. Russia and the other countries has urged the Islamic republic to accept a proposal under which Iran would ship its uranium abroad to be enriched and then returned, but Iran has rejected that offer.

Medvedev welcomed Netanyahu on Monday, saying, "Israel for us is not some ordinary partner, but the country with which we are connected by many years of relations and a special composition of the population," according to his office.

Netanyahu, who is scheduled to return home Tuesday, warned less than a week ago that "Iran is racing forward to produce nuclear weapons in brazen defiance of the international community."

"The international community must decide if it is serious about neutralizing this threat to Israel, the region and the entire world. I believe what's required right now is tough action from the international community. This means not partial and moderate sanctions, or watered-down sanctions, this means crippling sanctions and these sanctions must be applied right now," he said.

Israel has often been the object of rhetoric by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said the Jewish state "must be wiped off the map" politically. The United States has had to assure Israel that its interests will be protected to keep its military on the sidelines.

Iran recently announced that it can now enrich uranium to the point where it can sustain a nuclear reaction, but denies it plans to build a bomb.

Flag-waving and cheering supporters heard hardline President Ahmadinejad say Thursday that Iran has produced its first batch of 20 percent-enriched uranium and will soon triple production.

Uranium enriched to 20 percent can set off a nuclear reaction, scientists say, but is not weapons grade.

Ahmadinejad said the country is capable of enriching uranium up to 80 percent but won't.

Meanwhile, Clinton has been traveling through the Middle East, expressing concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions with Arab allies.

In Saudi Arabia on Monday, she called Iran's recent announcement that it will start to produce higher-grade enriched uranium "a provocative move in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions" and warned that the "increasingly disturbing and destabilizing actions" by Iran "will result in increasing isolation."

Clinton's comments came hours after she told a town hall meeting in Doha, Qatar, that the United States believes Iran "is moving toward a military dictatorship."

Clinton was responding to a question about whether the United States was getting ready for military action in Iran.

"No, we are planning to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran," Clinton said.

She added: "We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. Now, that is our view."

CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report