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Putin: Iran nuclear issue must be settled peacefully

By Ed Payne, CNN
February 27, 2012 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the consequences of a military strike against Iran would be disastrous.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the consequences of a military strike against Iran would be disastrous.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • If Iran cooperates, sanctions must be lifted, Putin says
  • Western sanctions target Iran's financial and oil sectors
  • Now the prime minister, Putin is running for president again
  • This would be Putin's third term as president

(CNN) -- The consequences of a military strike against Iran would be disastrous, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wrote in a wide-ranging editorial Monday.

"Russia is worried about the growing threat of a military strike against Iran," Putin said in an editorial carried by the RIA Novosti news agency. "If this happens, the consequences will be disastrous. It is impossible to imagine the true scope of this turn of events."

The former Russian president, who is running for the post again, said he's convinced the issue must be settled by peaceful means.

"We propose recognizing Iran's right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including the right to enrich uranium," Putin said. "But this must be done in exchange for putting all Iranian nuclear activity under reliable and comprehensive IAEA safeguards."

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If that is done, Putin said, sanctions against Tehran must be lifted.

Iran is under intense international pressure to demonstrate that it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons, with widespread Western sanctions targeting its financial and oil sectors. Crude oil sales make up about half of Tehran's revenue.

Both Russia and China have been reluctant to back tougher U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran.

On another international hot spot, Putin said a "Libyan scenario" should not be employed in Syria.

"The key objective is to prevent an all-out civil war." he said. "Russian diplomacy has worked and will continue to work toward this end."

Russia abstained from a Security Council vote last year that cleared the way for airstrikes against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

"Sadder but wiser, we oppose the adoption of UN Security Council resolutions that may be interpreted as a signal to armed interference in Syria's domestic development," Putin said. "Guided by this consistent approach in early February, Russia and China prevented the adoption of an ambiguous resolution that would have encouraged one side of this domestic conflict to resort to violence."

Putin's editorial comes a week ahead of this Sunday's presidential election.

Putin handed over the presidency to ally Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, when he was barred from seeking a third consecutive term. After spending four years as prime minister, he announced in December that he would seek the presidency again.

Putin has dominated Russian politics since 1999, and human rights groups say civil liberties and democratic freedoms have suffered during his rule. But opponents took to the streets by the thousands after his United Russia party won a narrow majority in December parliamentary elections that monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said were "slanted in favor of the ruling party."

The leading opposition candidate in the March 3 vote is Russia's third-richest man, billionaire New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Critics of Putin showed up in the thousands on Sunday in a show of strength ahead of the election. They attempted to complete a circuit of Moscow's 15-kilometer (9.3-mile) "Garden Ring" road, but fell short.

RIA Novosti quoted police as saying 11,000 people turned out Sunday, far below the estimated 34,000 needed to complete the human chain.

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