Russia: president defends Iran in interview

In an interview with German TV broadcaster ZDF, Putin also rebutted critics from Europe and the United States who say his government has rolled back democracy in Russia. The Kremlin posted on its Web site a transcript of the interview, parts of which were broadcast on Russian state-run television.

Speaking on the efforts of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany to persuade Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment, Putin urged patience with Tehran, the AP reports. 

Putin's interview was his latest in a series given in advance of this weekend's summit of leaders from the Group of Eight major industrialized nations.

The Russian leader rejected strong criticism leveled recently by some European and U.S. officials about the state of democracy and civil society in Russia. Some lawmakers have called for G8 leaders to raise such issues during the summit, being held in St. Petersburg.