This has largely gone without comment in the blogosphere:
MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he was convinced Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and that Russia would press ahead with nuclear cooperation with the Islamic Republic.
Putin’s defense of Iran, where Russia is building a nuclear power plant, comes in the face of U.S. concerns that Tehran could be using Russian know-how to covertly build a nuclear weapon.
“The latest steps by Iran convince Russia that Iran indeed does not intend to produce nuclear weapons and we will continue to develop relations in all sectors, including peaceful atomic energy,” Putin told Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani.
“We hope Iran will strictly stick to all agreements with Russia or the international community,” Putin said at the start of talks with Rohani at the Kremlin.
The United States has criticized Moscow for pressing ahead with construction of a 1,000-megawatt reactor at Bushehr in southern Iran.
Russia’s top nuclear officials are due to travel to Iran next week to finalize the final technicalities of its start-up later this year.
The question of Russia’s nuclear ties with Iran is certain to figure in a summit between Putin and President Bush in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Feb. 24.
Most bloggers have so far concentrated on the negotiations France, Germany and Great Britain are conducting with Iran, in the hope of preventing the country from arming itself with nuclear weapons. The fact that Iran wouldn’t even have the capability of doing so without Russian help is rarely mentioned. I hope that this summit will change that, and also that Bush can persuade Putin to cut that crap out.