By Janet McBride
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday Iran's proposals to world powers could be a basis for negotiations and he ruled out imposing oil sanctions over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
Lavrov's assessment -- the first response to Iran's proposals -- was swiftly contradicted in Washington where a U.S. official said Iran's offer was 'not really responsive'. The United States, Britain, France and Germany favor tougher action than Russia and China to force Iran to stop enriching uranium.
"Based on a brief review of the Iranian papers my impression is there is something there to use," Lavrov told academics and reporters from the Valdai discussion group in Moscow.
"The most important thing is Iran is ready for a comprehensive discussion of the situation, what positive role it can play in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region," he said.
Lavrov said the United Nations Security Council would not support oil sanctions against Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude oil exporter and a major importer of gasoline. Russia has a permanent seat on the council and the power of veto.
Lavrov said world powers had agreed to use sanctions only as a way to get Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency in its monitoring of Iran's nuclear work.
"Some of the sanctions under discussion, including oil and oil products, are not a mechanism to force Iran to cooperate -- they are a step to a full blown blockade and I do not think they would be supported at the UN Security Council," he said.
Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at producing electricity and has repeatedly rejected demands to halt enrichment, which can have both civilian and military purposes.
U.S. President Barack Obama has indicated Iran will face much harsher sanctions, possibly targeting its lifeblood oil sector, if it does not accept good-faith negotiations by the end of September.
Lavrov said he opposed setting deadlines.
"Such a comprehensive approach by the six powers and Iran's readiness to discuss is something. But negotiations cannot be finished by a set date," he said.
(writing by Janet McBride and Conor Sweeney; Editing by Charles Dick)