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Russia Will Oppose Any Security Council Resolution Punishing Iran

Russia says it will oppose any United Nations Security Council resolution to punish Iran or promote regime change in connection with Tehran's nuclear program.

In an interview published Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there is no proof Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. He said only the International Atomic Energy Agency can make that determination.

Mr. Lavrov also called on Iran to respect international demands aimed at ensuring that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

In Tehran, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, his country has the right to enrich uranium.

He called on Western nations to return to talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, and that Iran is ready to discuss the reasons for its actions.

Iran has been locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program. A draft U.N. resolution on Iran is expected to be introduced in the Security Council next week.

Diplomats have said they would seek limited sanctions against Tehran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment.

On Friday, France's defense minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said her country and its allies are willing to suspend the drive for sanctions against Iran - if Tehran takes positive steps toward ending the standoff over its nuclear program.

Iran ignored an August 3 U.N. deadline to suspend uranium enrichment.

Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. The United States and other Western nations, however, have accused Iran of using it as a cover to secretly acquire a nuclear weapon.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.