MOSCOW: Russia has ruled out backing western sanctions against Iran, saying they are aimed at regime change in Tehran.
"Somebody may be viewing the current situation as a window of possibility and cynically go down the path of regime change in Tehran," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told a magazine in an interview published Wednesday.
"But Russia will not support this course of action," Ryabkov told the magazine, adding that Russia was seeking a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.
Western powers fear Iran wants to make nuclear weapons and have tightened sanctions against the Islamic republic.
The European Union will also stop importing Iranian oil from July 1.
Iran, however, says its programme is aimed at the producing civilian energy.
Earlier Wednesday, Iran began loading domestically-made nuclear fuel rods into a research reactor at its Natanz facility and also unveiled more efficient enrichment centrifuges.
Ryabkov said there were "heaps of examples" where sanctions meant targeting Iranian officials or the country's oil industry. "What does this have to do with nuclear non-proliferation?".
He also said there was no evidence that Iran was seeking to create a nuclear bomb, but added that there was concern in Moscow that "the space which separates Iran from hypothetically possessing nuclear weapons is diminishing".
Last week, President Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to return to talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear programme.
Talks between Iran and six world powers -- the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- collapsed a year ago.