MOSCOW -- Western nations will have to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions without Russia's help if they refuse to cooperate with Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.
Russia's invasion of Georgia has raised tension with the West, which like Moscow does not want Iran to use its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb. Tehran says its atomic work is only to make electricity.
Asked in an interview with CNN if the Georgia row could hurt U.S.-Russian cooperation on Iran, Putin said: "If nobody wants to talk with us on these issues and cooperation with Russia is not needed, then for God's sake, do it yourself."
A transcript of the interview was posted on Putin's official Internet site www.government.ru.
Putin, who served two terms as president before stepping down in May, made clear that ending cooperation was not his preferred option, saying Russia and the United States had a common interest in resolving the Iran issue.
Russia, one of five veto-holding nations on the United Nations Security Council, has backed three previous sanctions measures against Iran to try to curb Tehran's nuclear drive.
According to the transcript, Putin said in the interview Russia had been working "consistently and conscientiously" with its partners on Iran.
"Not because anyone is asking us and not because we want to look good in someone's eyes," he is quoted as saying. "We are doing it because it corresponds to our national interests, because in this field our interests coincide with those of many European countries and those of the United States."
Relations between Russia and the West are at their most tense for years after the Kremlin sent in troops to defeat an attempt by Georgia to retake its Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Western states said Russia went too far by pushing its troops into undisputed Georgian territory, and they condemned the Kremlin for recognizing South Ossetia, and the second rebel region of Abkhazia, as independent states.
Russia signaled that despite the row it was still engaged with international partners on the Iran issue on August 28 when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met his Iranian counterpart, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, at a regional summit.
At Medvedev's initiative, the two leaders discussed the Iranian nuclear program in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, where they were attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping.
"The Russian president raised the possibility of continuing the dialogue and the discussion," Medvedev's spokeswoman, Natalia Timakova, told reporters without giving further details.
Washington has been pressing for tighter sanctions against Tehran at the UN Security Council and needs Moscow's support.
Russia says it does not want Iran to have atomic weapons, but that the Islamic republic is entitled to a peaceful nuclear program.