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Russia's Putin Says West Seeking 'Regime Change' In Iran

Vladimir Putin (right) and Said Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, at a meeting in Russia in 2007
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the West of seeking "regime change" in Iran under the guise of trying to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Putin spoke as he toured a nuclear research center in the once-secret city of Sarov ahead of a March 4 presidential election in which he is widely expected to secure a return to the Kremlin.

His remarks come as the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is stepping up its criticism of Tehran. In its latest quarterly report about Iran's atomic activities, the UN's nuclear watchdog says it has "major differences" with Iran and "major concerns" about its nuclear program.

IAEA inspectors probing suspected weapons work this week returned from a failed mission to Tehran.

Russia has longstanding commercial and military ties with Iran and has condemned unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over its suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Moscow, however, has not opposed four rounds of UN sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran over its nuclear activities.

Based on AFP and Reuters reporting