(Reuters) - Russia defied Western pressure to toughen its stance over Iran's nuclear programme on Wednesday, days before President Vladimir Putin has talks in Tehran and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Moscow.
Western powers suspect Iran wants to develop nuclear bombs and are pushing hard for a third round of international sanctions. Russia could use its veto powers in the United Nations Security Council to block such moves.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying it would be "irresponsible" to make any sudden moves on Iran until the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, had completed negotiations with Tehran.
After talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow, Putin said he had no evidence Iran was trying to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its atomic programme is peaceful.
Putin said Moscow would cooperate on the issue within the U.N., apparently sticking to a Russian stance that rules out further sanctions in the near future and any punitive action against Iran outside the U.N. framework.
"Until the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) reports on what is going on in Iran, until we receive these answers, it would be irresponsible to make any sharp movements," Lavrov was quoted by RIA as saying.
"When we hear calls to use force against Iran, which has fallen foul of IAEA rules, then we question what this could lead to," Lavrov said.
Iran agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in August to explain the scope of its nuclear work. A senior IAEA official is in Tehran at present for talks.