Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he has no doubt that Iran is adhering to international commitments on nuclear non-proliferation while reiterating Moscow’s opposition to Tehran developing a nuclear weapon.
He also commented on Syria during a question and answer session with Russian state-run English-language channel RT, saying he wished that the government had negotiated with the opposition during the early stages of the conflict now in it 26th month.
Putin, whose country is among six world powers seeking to ensure that Iran does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, also criticized Iran’s threats to Israel.
Israel has itself threatened to strike Iran over its nuclear program, and has been widely suspected of being behind the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists.
“I have no doubt that Iran is adhering to the rules in this area. Because there is no proof of the opposite,” Putin said.
But he criticized Iran for rejecting a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Tehran’s nuclear program.
Putin suggested that Washington was exaggerating dangers posed by Iran, saying “the United States uses Iran to unite Western allies against some real or non-existent threat.”
Putin said that concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is purely for peaceful purposes including power generation, must be addressed.
Last week, Russia joined China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany in pressing Iran to cooperate with a stalled investigation by the UN nuclear agency into suspected atomic research by the Islamic state.
In a June 5 joint statement intended to signal their unity in the decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, the six powers said they were “deeply concerned” about the country’s atomic activities.
Regarding Syria, Putin said he remained firmly opposed to outside intervention and implied that Russia’s position on the crisis remained unchanged.
But he also criticized President Bashar al-Assad, saying he should have listened more closely to opposition demands when the conflict broke out in March 2011.
“I have said that it seemed like the country was ripe for changes and its leadership should have sensed this and begun implementing these changes,” Putin said.
“This is apparent. Otherwise, everything that is happening – it would not have happened.”
Putin also denied that Russia was acting as a public defender of Assad by blocking three rounds of UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning him for violence that has now claimed more than 94,000 lives.
“We are not the lawyers of the current government or President Bashar al-Assad,” Putin said.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)