WIESBADEN, Germany Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Monday that he would travel to Iran despite reports about a possible assassination attempt, saying if he paid attention to all the threats against him "I would never leave home."
Russia's Interfax news agency, citing a source in Russia's intelligence services, said Sunday that suicide terrorists had been trained to carry out the assassination in Iran. The Kremlin said Putin was informed about the threat.
But the Russia president said his trip was planned long in advance and that he would talk with Iranian leaders about their disputed nuclear program, although he stressed the original purpose of the trip was to discuss issues affecting states bordering on the Caspian Sea.
"Of course I am going to Iran," Putin said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks with her. "If I always listened to all the various threats and the recommendations of the special services I would never leave home."
Iranian officials have rejected reports about the plot as disinformation spread by adversaries hoping to spoil Russian-Iranian relations.
Putin underlined the need to solve the nuclear problem "through peaceful measures," adding that it was important to make direct contact with Tehran whenever the chance presented itself.
Russia, which is building Iran's first nuclear plant, has resisted the U.S. push for stronger sanctions against Tehran and strongly warned Washington against using force. But it has urged Iran to comply with international controls on its nuclear activities and dragged its feet on the plant's completion.
Putin's Tehran trip repeatedly has been postponed, as has the launch of the nuclear plant.
Russia warned early this year that the plant in the southern port of Bushehr wouldn't be launched this fall as planned because Iran was slow in making payments. It has also delayed the shipment of uranium fuel for the plant.
Iranian officials have angrily denied any payment arrears and accused the Kremlin of caving in to Western pressure.
During his visit to Iran, Putin is to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and attend Tuesday's summit of Caspian Sea nations. He is the first Kremlin leader to travel to Iran since Josef Stalin attended the 1943 wartime summit with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Putin's trip would be important for Iran even if it yielded no agreements. "It's a break in international isolation, a chance to show that Iran is an important country," said Alexander Pikayev, a leading expert on Iran with Russia's Institute for World Economy and International relations.
Iranian media also emphasized the importance of Putin's trip. Iran's state television said the visit would "show Russia's independence from the United States."
"Iran can use the visit to lobby for getting our nuclear dossier out of the U.N. Security Council and Russia can strengthen its opposition to the U.S. through boosting ties with Tehran," the hard-line daily newspaper Resalat said in an editorial Monday.
Last week, Putin bluntly spelled out his disagreements with Washington, saying that he saw no "objective data" to prove Western claims that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Though Russia has shielded Iran from harsher sanctions in the U.N. Security Council, its relations with Tehran have been hurt by disputes over the $1 billion deal to build the nuclear plant.
Iran also has continued its own enrichment program, saying it wants to produce fuel by itself an effort that has heightened international suspicions. Low-enriched uranium is used to fuel nuclear power plants, but highly enriched uranium can be used to build nuclear weapons.
Iran has insisted that its program is meant purely to generate electricity, and it has stonewalled a Russian proposal to move the enrichment to Russia.
European Union nations on Monday were considering more sanctions or other measures against Iran, with a meeting of foreign ministers planning to warn that Iran's time is running out.
Diplomats said EU governments were to warn Iran of "further appropriate measures" if it fails to cooperate, notably new economic and political sanctions that could include investment bans, or scrapping export credit guarantees.
Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said European trade to Iran had already fallen "by about 37 percent in the year to May," signaling that the EU was serious about punishing Iran."The EU is playing its part in signaling very clearly to the Iranian regime that they need to abide by the successive U.N. Security Council resolutions," Miliband told reporters.
Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov, Nasser Karimi and Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, and Constant Brand in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.