Russia, which has scrapped a deal with the United States that banned arms sales to Iran, will send its defense minister to Tehran in January, an official Iranian source said Saturday.
Igor Sergeyev's visit will be a "prelude" to a future meeting between Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the source, who asked not to be identified.
Word of the visit comes after Moscow informed Washington it intends to withdraw from a 1995 accord on weapons shipments to Iran at the end of November.
The White House responded with the threat of sanctions, according to an official who asked not to be identified, saying: "We've told the Russians at the highest levels of government that there would be consequences."
The 12-paragraph aide-memoire and its annexes were negotiated by Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, and was not publicized until the New York Times newspaper wrote about it on October 13.
The Russians said this publicity broke the terms of the agreement, and was therefore sufficient cause for them to unilaterally withdraw, according to US official sources.
But Sergeyev sought to allay Western fears at the resumption of arms deals between Moscow and Tehran, saying that under no circumstances would Russia help Iran to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.
The United States imposes unilateral sanctions on Iran and accuses it of sponsoring international terrorism – TEHRAN (AFP)
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