Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the international community must resolve its problems with Iran and North Korea through negotiation.
In a BBC webcast, he said it would be a mistake to impose sanctions on Iran.
He said he would prefer the Iran nuclear problem to be dealt with by the International Atomic Energy Agency rather than the UN Security Council.
He was answering some of the thousands of questions sent in by readers to the BBC and Russia's Yandex website.
Korean missile technology
The Russian president said Russia was "disappointed" by North Korea's missile test.
Civilised states gave other countries warning when they planned to launch a missile, and predicted where the parts would land, he said.
He said the international community would have to focus in future not only on North Korea's nuclear potential but also its delivery systems.
"We have to create an atmosphere where we can arrive at a mutually acceptable compromise," he said.
However he cast doubt on North Korea's ability to launch a long-range missile, "at least for the foreseeable future".
On Iran, he said it was not possible to wait endlessly for Iran to comply with the international community's demands.
"But it's even more counterproductive to get the problem into an impasse from which we won't know how to get out," he added.
The webcast came a week before the G8 summit, which Russia is hosting in St Petersburg, and which will focus on the issue of energy security.
Asked if switching off gas to Ukraine in January was the best way to start Russia's year as chair of the G8, Mr Putin said Russia had no choice.
He said Russia had spent billions of dollars each year subsidising gas supplies to its neighbours, for more than a decade, and had been talking to Ukraine about switching to market prices for a long time.
He blamed the Western media for creating "hysteria", saying this was designed to put pressure on Russia to sell its gas cheaply.
"Europeans have nothing to worry about," he said.
Answering questions for more than two hours, Mr Putin also touched on relations with the United States, Russian democracy, the conflict in Chechnya, the fight against corruption, and the problem of racism.
He said he had spoken to US President George Bush earlier in the day to congratulate him on his 60th birthday, adding that he regarded Mr Bush as a "decent man" and a personal friend.
In answer to a question from Mike Hetley in the Cayman Islands, about the difficulty of obtaining a Russian tourist visa, Mr Putin promised that Mr Hetley's problems would be solved as quickly as possible.
"As soon as we find his details we will definitely help him," he said.
He added that Russia was negotiating right now to move to a non-visa travel regime with the European Union and with many other countries.