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Russia hopes Iran nuclear talks will resume soon

By Alexei Anishchuk

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russia believes there is a good chance that talks between global powers and Iran on Tehran's nuclear program could resume soon despite a planned EU oil embargo and other sources of tension, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

Lavrov emphasized Moscow's opposition to Western sanctions against Iran, saying they reduced the chances of ending the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States and Europe fear is aimed at developing weapons.

"Despite these aggravating factors, we still have a strong hope to resume talks in the nearest future," he said of long-dormant talks between Iran and six global powers -- Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

He said Russia would try to deter both Iran and the West from making counterproductive moves that would further jeopardize the chances for talks, but did not explain how it would do so.

The European Union banned imports of oil from Iran Monday and imposed a number of other economic sanctions, joining the United States in a new round of measures aimed at pushing Iran into reining in its nuclear activities.

Veto-wielding U.N. Security Council member Russia has emphasised it opposes any further sanctions beyond the four rounds of measures it approved in the council in recent years.

Lavrov said last week that additional sanctions were aimed at triggering popular discontent in Iran by "strangling" the economy and the civilian population.

Russia has proposed a plan under which existing sanctions would be eased in return for steps by Tehran to instill trust and wants the proposal to be discussed if the talks, stalled for a year, resume.

Iran said last week that it was in touch with the six powers to reopen talks soon, but the European Union denied it, and Western nations said Iran must show it is serious about demonstrating that its nuclear activities are purely peaceful.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Thomas Grove and Tim Pearce)

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