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Can Putin Stop New Threat Of Iran Attack?

By James Donahue

Russian President Vladimir Putin is making his first visit to Iran next week for a summit of the Caspian Sea littoral nations. The visit is expected to further cement relations between Moscow and Tehran and hopefully help defuse new rhetoric in Washington that suggests President George W. Bush still plans a bombing attack.

Putin has spoken out against such an attack, saying there is no proof that Tehran is clandestinely developing nuclear arms. He also has opposed a US bid for tougher sanctions against Iran, and called, instead, for more inspections of Iranian facilities by the UN's International nuclear agency.

"Iran must be encouraged to make its nuclear program fully transparent," Putin is quoted as saying. "Iran is making certain steps toward the international community to achieve that."

In a news conference following a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Putin explained that there is no proof that Iran is attempting to build a nuclear bomb. "We operate on the principle that Iran does not have these plans," he said.

Russia is helping Iran build its first nuclear electric generating plant and consequently has a powerful interest in easing tensions in that nation. Tehran has denied accusations by the Bush Administration and Israel that Iran is hiding a secret bomb making project behind the Russian-backed project.