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Putin Expresses Hope Iran Will Accept Russian Proposal

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is still hopeful a positive result can be reached with Iran concerning the international dispute over its nuclear program. Mr. Putin made the comment during a joint press conference in Azerbaijani's capital, Baku, Wednesday, where he completed two days of talks with President Ilham Aliyev.

President Putin had been expected to focus on energy issues during his two-day visit to Azerbaijan. But that issue got sidelined, amid the ongoing tension over whether Iran will accept a Russian compromise proposal designed to stave off threatened U.N. Security Council sanctions over its nuclear program.

President Putin admitted the plan, backed by the United States and Europe, has been a hard sell. But he says he still thinks Russia can broker a positive result, whereby Iran would accept the plan, which calls for Russia to enrich Tehran's uranium on its own soil to ensure that it is not diverted to make a nuclear weapon.

In remarks broadcast on Russian television, Putin cited no specific reason for the optimism, other than to say that sooner or later all such problems must be resolved - all the better, he adds, between neighbors.

Privately, analysts in Moscow suggest that the Kremlin also wants to be sure that Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, will support any decision by Moscow to oppose possible punitive sanctions against Tehran.

In his remarks to reporters, President Aliyev said nothing on the subject. Instead, he focused his attention on efforts to increase bilateral trade between Baku and Moscow.

Aliyev says the economies of the two countries are developing very dynamically, providing what he said are new opportunities for cooperation. This, as Azerbaijan marks the start of what is being called, the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan.

The talks also yielded a number of scientific and technical agreements, as well as a pledge to step up bilateral cooperation in countering international terrorism, drug trafficking and the illegal weapons trade.

The two presidents also agreed on the need for further talks on determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea.