U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a meeting Friday about the North Korean nuclear crisis. ((Takanori Sekine/Associated Press))

Condoleezza Rice met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to talk about North Korea'srecent nuclear test.

But theU.S. secretary of state had another item on her agenda: Trying to persuade Russia not to fight UN sanctions against Iranfor its nuclear program.

At themeeting in Moscow, Rice suggested that penalizing Pyongyang will makeiteasier to impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program.

"It really does help to create a momentum," she said on the fourth day of a trip that has already taken her toChina, Japan andSouth Korea to discuss the North Korean test.

However, RussianForeign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected UN sanctions against Iran.

"We won't be able to support and will oppose any attempts to use the Security Council to punish Iran or use Iran's program in order to promote the ideas of regime change there," he told the Kuwaiti News Agency KUNA.

Rice rejects reports

Earlier Saturday, Ricedisputed newspaper reports that suggested North Korea waswilling to refrain from further nuclear tests, and said the North Koreans would like to increase international tension.

South Korean and Japanese news reports suggested North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had indicated in a meeting with Chinese official Tang Jiaxuan this week that he was planning no further nuclear tests.

But on Saturday morning, Rice told reporters travelling with her to Moscow that she had heard nothing to suggest Kim had either apologized for the test or said that he would never test again.

Rice saidshe was given a "thorough" briefing from Tang while visiting Beijing on Friday, but came away believing Pyongyang is not ready to back downfrom its nuclear program.

"The North Koreans, I think, would like to see an escalation of the tension," Rice said.

The North Korean leader told his Chinese visitors "he is sorry about the nuclear test," South Korea'smass-circulation Chosun Ilbo daily had reported,citing a diplomatic source in China.

China's sanctions take effect

Meanwhile, trading along North Korea's border with China was at a standstill on Saturday as Beijing's sanctions against Pyongyang came into effect.

The Wall Street Journal and Associated Press have reported that China's state-owned banks have frozen international bank transfers to North Korea.

China is North Korea's top trading partner, accounting for more than half its total foreign trade of less than $4 billion US last year.

With files from the Associated Press