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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Russian warning over Iran crisis
Iranian technicians
Some of the detailed demands to Iran are omitted in the latest draft
Russia has warned it will not support any attempts to use force to resolve the stand-off over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "exclusively political methods should be used".

His remarks come as the UN Security Council's five permanent members prepare to discuss the issue Thursday.

All 15 members of the council are studying a new, third version of a draft statement on Iran.

The statement - drawn up by France and the UK - urges Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

It puts more emphasis on the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), giving it a longer timeframe to report back on Iran's compliance with demands.

The US and many other Western nations on the IAEA board suspect that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Berlin meeting

"The non-proliferation regime must remain the only issue, and no use of force can be supported," Mr Lavrov said in Moscow.

He stressed that a strategy for the settlement of Iran's nuclear crisis should be "based on IAEA recommendations".

Mr Lavrov was speaking ahead of a meeting of top diplomats from the five UN veto-wielding nations - Russia, the US, UK, France and China - in the German capital, Berlin, to discuss the issue. Germany will also be taking part in the talks.

The UK, France and the US would like agreement on the latest draft statement before the Berlin talks start, reports the BBC's Susannah Price in New York.

Ambassadors from the five permanent members of the UN have already discussed the draft.

The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, has said they reached agreement on the bulk of the text but still had some way to go.

Repeated calls

The UK and France hope their latest version of the statement will win approval from China and Russia.

Moscow is concerned that Security Council involvement could lead to sanctions against Iran and it wants the IAEA to take the lead, our correspondent says.

The latest draft repeats the call for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, but omits some of the detailed demands - referring instead to an IAEA resolution on the issue.

It again calls for the IAEA's director general to report back on Iran's compliance, but extends the deadline from 14 to 30 days.

And while it no longer says the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat to international peace and security, the draft statement does refer to the Security Council's responsibility to maintain peace.

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