The presidents of Russia and China on Monday called on Iran to fulfill the U.N. Security Council's resolutions over its disputed atomic program, a day after the Islamic republic announced it was partially suspending cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao also said in a joint statement that their countries — permanent, veto wielding Security Council members — were ready to "search for a comprehensive, long-term and mutually acceptable solution to the Iranian nuclear problem.'' They also emphasized that the increasingly tense dispute should be resolved "exclusively through peaceful means."
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said he would soon resume talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator.
Solana, speaking in Brussels, Belgium, said he had "some contact" with Iran's Ali Larijani on Sunday and that "we'll try again today, the sooner the better."
Iran says its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, but the West believes may be a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.
"Russia and China are calling on Iran to take the necessary constructive steps to fulfill the U.N. Security Council resolutions and (International Atomic Energy Agency) board decisions and believe that Iran. ... has the right to pursue peaceful use of nuclear energy while observing its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," the statement said.
Russia and China joined other members of the Security Council on Saturday in voting to impose new sanctions on Iran. The sanctions included the banning of Iranian arms exports and the freezing of assets of 28 people and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
Iran rejected the sanctions and later announced a partial suspension of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Earlier on Monday, the Russian state-run company building Iran's first atomic power plant said that Tehran had made its first payment toward the delayed construction of the Bushehr plant since a dispute over financing halted the project.
Moscow and Tehran have been at loggerheads over financing of the plant, and Russia said earlier this month that nuclear fuel would not be supplied this month, as had been planned. The delays prompted Russia to indefinitely postpone the reactor's launch, set for September.
Iran, meanwhile, angrily denied falling behind in payments and accused Russia of caving in to U.S. pressure to take a tougher line on Tehran for defying international demands to halt parts of its nuclear program.
Russian officials denied media speculation that it was putting political pressure on Iran under cover of the financial dispute.
"The fact that our Iranian partners have overcome their difficulties is positive, however, it far from compensates for the requirements of the (project) that have arisen during the period of nonpayment," Atomstroiexport spokesman Sergei Novikov said in a statement.
The company also said the new payment was just half of the monthly amount needed for a normal construction schedule to be resumed.