Russia backs Rowhani calls for nuclear talks

Russia on Tuesday backed the new Iranian president's call for fresh negotiations without delay on Tehran's nuclear programme, while criticising calls by US lawmakers for harsher sanctions against Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said Tuesday at his first news conference since assuming office that Iran was ready for "serious" talks on its nuclear programme "without wasting time."

"We absolutely agree with what he said," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying at a news conference in Rome by Russian news agencies.

"Now it's extremely important to support such an attitude from the Iranian leadership," Lavrov said.

"We need to resolve this, like any other problem, not on the level of ultimatums, but on the basis of respectful relations with a partner, and the basis for this is within the 'three plus three' talks," Lavrov said.

He was referring to talks involving three European Union countries -- Germany, France and Britain -- as well as the United States, China and Russia.

While Iran insists its nuclear programme including uranium enrichment is peaceful, Western powers believe it is using it as a cover to develop nuclear weapons.

Lavrov stressed Moscow's opposition to calls by US senators to toughen sanctions on Iran, saying that this was inadvisable when a new president was taking office.

In a letter published Monday, 76 US senators urged President Barack Obama to impose harsher sanctions on Iran.

"I think these ideas contradict the fundamental interests of the international community, the interests of ensuring a regime of non-proliferation," Lavrov said.

"These are dangerous games and we hope reason will prevail."

Iran has been slapped with successive rounds of UN Security Council sanctions and also unilateral measures by the United States and the European Union.

Iran and world powers have held two rounds of talks in Almaty in Kazakhstan which have been marked by a better atmosphere than previous talks.