Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has flown to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to focus on the future of the international road map to peace plan.

Officials in Mr. Sharon's office say one of the top priorities of his visit will be to convince President Putin to drop plans to push the road map through the United Nations Security Council.

On Thursday, Russia introduced a resolution at the United Nations calling on the Security Council to formally approve the plan.

The plan, which is backed by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Israel has given support in principle to the road map, but has stated 14 reservations to the plan, and it opposes efforts to involve the U.N. Security Council.

Israeli officials say they trust only the United States to oversee the implementation of the plan.

Israeli officials fear that a Security Council vote could pressure Israel to carry out its obligations under the road map, without any guarantees that the Palestinian Authority would have to meet its commitments.

One of Israel's conditions for agreeing to implement the plan is an effort by the Palestinian Authority to prevent Palestinian armed groups from carrying out violent attacks.

During his visit in Russia, Mr. Sharon is also expected to raise the issue of Iran's nuclear program.

Israeli officials are concerned that Iran is secretly acquiring the knowledge and skills to build atomic weapons from countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union.

Israeli intelligence officials have claimed that, if left unchecked, Iran will be fully capable of building atomic weapons by the middle of next year. Iran said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.