Iran has the right to develop its civil nuclear technologies and industry, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said at a joint press conference in the Siberian city of Tomsk on Thursday.
"Our position is clear and well-known. We are against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and this applies to Iran, but we believe that Iran must have an opportunity to develop advanced technologies and the nuclear power industry for civil purposes," Putin was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying, after talks with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
As for the current standoff over Iran's nuclear program, Putin said: "A solution will be found in the course of negotiations."
"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must play the key role in dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem, and this issue [must not be] put on the shoulders of the UN Security Council," the Russian president said.
Russia also believed the IAEA board was the best forum to debate the Iran issue, but Merkel disagreed with Putin on this.
"It is a discussion in the IAEA, but also in the Security Council," she said.
Merkel said diplomats from the council's five permanent members plus Germany would discuss Iran in early May. Foreign ministers of those countries were also likely to meet, she said.
Their comments came on the eve of a crucial UN meeting where the IAEA is expected to report that Iran has ignored a UN deadline, which expires Friday, to stop its uranium enrichment activities.
Tehran says it needs the enriched fuel for its civilian reactor project.