Defying US, Russia Signs Military, Nuclear Cooperation Pact with Iran
Russia defied the United States on Monday and signed a series of agreements cementing military and nuclear cooperation with Iran during the first Russian-Iranian summit in Moscow in more than a decade, said reports.
But President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami, failed to resolve a long-standing dispute over rights to oil riches under the Caspian Sea, said AFP.
Putin defended a controversial decision to scrap an agreement with the United States barring arms sales to Iran, saying Tehran had a right to defend itself.
He also announced that Russia was prepared to expand cooperation on atomic energy with Iran, speeding up construction of the controversial Busher nuclear reactor that Washington fears will help Tehran develop nuclear weapons, said the agency.
"Iran does not intend to arm itself with weapons which lie outside the boundaries of international agreements, by which Russia abides, and Russia does not intend to break its obligations," Putin said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.
"Russia is interested in cooperating (with Iran) for economic reasons," said Putin. "As for politics, Iran must be a self-sufficient, independent state which can defend its national interests."
Khatami, for his part, noted that Russia and Iran both had the right "to decide what is in our benefit and what is not," the Iranian News Agency (IRNA) quoted him as saying.
Russia provoked US fury and threats of economic sanctions last November when it ripped up a secret 1995 pact with the United States outlawing military cooperation with the Islamic government in Teheran, still considered a threatening "rogue state" by Washington, said AFP.
The cooperation treaty signed Monday commits Russia and Iran not to use force or the threat of force against each other, and to prevent either country being used to harbor "aggression, subversive or separatist acts against the other," said IRNA.
Russia has been heavily criticized by the United States for building the Bushehr nuclear reactor, which was commissioned in January 1994 and is still under construction.
But Putin said Monday that he and Khatami had not only discussed ways to speed up completion of the Bushehr project but also longer-term help for Iran in developing its atomic energy capability.
"Iran has plans to expand its nuclear energy sector on the basis of international agreements. The Russian Federation is interested and ready to take part in such work," Putin said.
Khatami was accompanied by a high-ranking political, military and economic delegation that included Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, said the Iranian agency.
In a brief declaration to the press in Tehran before boarding a plane to Moscow, Khatami said the "principal object of the visit to Russia was the establishment of peace in the region."
He added that "all subjects" of mutual interest to Tehran and Moscow would be discussed.
"The relations between our two countries are very good and on the road to progress," Khatami added.
Russia and Iran are currently negotiating with the three other countries bordering the Caspian Sea -- Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan -- to settle the sea's legal status.
Khatami was expected to address the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, and deliver a speech to students during his visit.
He is also lined up for talks with religious leaders Alexis II, the Russian Orthodox patriarch, and Ravil Gaynutdin, the Russian mufti, said IRNA.
On Wednesday, he is to travel to Russia's former imperial capital and second city, Saint Petersburg, concluding his visit with a trip to Kazan, capital of the mainly Muslim republic of Tatarstan.
The last visit to Russia by an Iranian leader was by former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1989 – Albawaba.com
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