- The two leaders will meet next week in China, according to media reports
- An international round of talks on Iran's nuclear program is set for later this month
- World powers are concerned Iran wants to build nuclear weapons
- Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in China next week before international talks are held on Iran's nuclear program in Moscow, Russia's state-run RIA-Novosti news agency reported Sunday.
The meeting is aimed at allowing Putin to "feel the heat surrounding the Iranian problem and see how this issue is perceived in Tehran," Yuri Ushakov, a former U.S. ambassador who now serves as a Russian foreign policy adviser, told the news agency.
Putin and Ahmadinejad will meet on the sidelines of the 12th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, to be held June 6-7 in Beijing.
The United States, France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany -- the so-called "P5+1, a reference to Germany plus the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- will meet in Moscow for another round of talks on Iran's nuclear program June 18-19.
"We weren't too happy with the results of the last round of talks, but we determined the mutual readiness to continue the discussion," Ushakov told RIA-Novosti. At the Moscow meeting, he said, Russia will "promote the thought that Iran's right to develop peaceful energy under the oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency should be approved."
World powers, particularly Western nations, suspect that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Last month, during a round of talks with the P5+1 in Baghdad, Iran rejected calls to stop the high enrichment of uranium that can be used for weapons, while the international powers refused Tehran's demand for an immediate end to sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union that are crippling its economy. Because 80% of Iran's foreign revenues are derived from oil exports, an embargo by the EU set to take effect in July will put further pressure on its economy.
Russia historically has been hesitant to support sanctions on Tehran. In November, it called a new round of sanctions "unacceptable," saying they hinder efforts to reach a diplomatic solution.
"Russia sees such extraterritorial measures as unacceptable and against international law," said a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, issued a day after the new sanctions were announced. "Such a practice seriously obstructs advancement toward a constructive dialogue with Tehran. Stronger sanction pressure, which some of our partners see almost as a goal in itself, will not encourage Iran to sit down at the negotiating table."
Just after the Baghdad talks, the U.N.'s IAEA said its inspectors found a high level of enriched uranium in Iran. The nuclear watchdog agency asked Tehran to explain the presence of particles of enrichment levels up to 27% found in an analysis of environmental samples taken in February at the Fordo fuel enrichment plant near the city of Qom.
The previous highest level had been 20%, typically used for hospital isotopes and research reactors. To build nuclear weapons, 90% enrichment is required.
Iran said in response that the production of such particles "above the target value" may happen for "technical reasons beyond the operator's control." The IAEA said it is "assessing Iran's explanation and has requested further details."