"The latest steps on Iran's behalf persuade us that Iran has no intention of building an atomic weapon. Consequently, we will continue to cooperate with Iran in all fields, including in nuclear energy," Putin said as he greeted Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, at the Kremlin on Friday.

  

Russia, however, was "deeply convinced that the proliferation of nuclear arms on the planet does not contribute to security either for the region or the world," Putin said.

  

"We hope that Iran will strictly respect all commitments it has made bilaterally with Russia and internationally," Putin said.

 

Role

  

Rowhani said Russia had a role of "great importance" to play in resolving the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

 

Rowhani says Russia could play a
key role in nuclear negotiations

Rowhani, addressing Putin, said Moscow could play a significant role in Iran's talks with Britain, France and Germany - the EU states taking the lead in the search for a diplomatic solution.

   

"We think that Russia's role can be useful in this process," he said.

   

"Under current international circumstances ... development of ties with Russia is in the interests of both our countries and will be a factor of stability in the region," he said.

 

Invitation

 

Putin said he had been invited by the Iranian leadership to visit Tehran and was "preparing for this visit," Interfax news agency reported.

  

"We hope that Iran will strictly respect all commitments it has made bilaterally with Russia and internationally"

Vladimir Putin,
Russian president

Dates for Putin's trip to Iran would be set later, he said.

  

Putin's meeting with Rowhani came a day after both countries announced that a crucial agreement obliging Iran to return all spent nuclear fuel to Russia would be signed on 26 February.

  

The United States has criticised Moscow for pressing ahead with construction of a 1000-megawatt reactor at Bushehr in southern Iran.

   

Iran has denied it seeks nuclear weapons and says it wants atomic technology solely to generate electricity.