Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday he still supported diplomacy to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program but sanctions should not be ruled out, Reuters reported.
"We are convinced that the path of sanctions is not optimal," Medvedev said in a message to the Arab League conference in Sirte, Libya.
"At the same time, such a scenario cannot be excluded," he added, according to a transcript provided by the president's press service.
Russia which, together with China, had been reluctant to endorse broader sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, has softened its stance on punitive measures against the Islamic Republic in recent months.
During his visit to France earlier in the month, Medvedev said that if diplomacy failed, Russia would support "smart" sanctions against Iran, because it could not wait for ever for cooperation by Tehran.
On Saturday, Medvedev said any sanctions that are introduced should be "well calculated and not targeted at the civilian population of Iran."
His foreign minister,
Sergei Lavrov, was quoted as telling a television channel that sanctions would be aimed at "encouraging cooperation with Iranian agencies in charge of the nuclear program."
"So far what we are hearing does not indicate 'clever sanctions' at all," Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying in an interview with Russia's TV-Center, to be aired later on Saturday.
Lavrov also said that Iran's lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was of concern to Russia. "In this sense, we want more from Iran," Lavrov said.
He reiterated that Russia would not support a military strike against Tehran.