Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Warnings from the Caspian Summit

On October 16, 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and implicitly warned the U.S. not to use a former Soviet republic to stage an attack on Iran.

At a summit of the five nations that border the inland Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan), Putin said none of the nations' territory should be used by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region. It was am obvious reference to long-standing rumors that the U.S. has planned to use Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

Putin, whose trip to Tehran is the first by a Kremlin leader since World War II, also warned that energy pipeline projects crossing the Caspian could only be implemented if all five nations that border the Caspian support them. The legal status of the Caspian — believed to contain the world's third-largest energy reserves — has been uncertain since the 1991 Soviet collapse, leading to tension and conflicting claims to seabed oil deposits. Iran, which shared the Caspian's resources with the Soviet Union, insists that each coastal nation receive an equal portion of the seabed. Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want the division based on the length of each nation's shoreline, giving Iran a smaller share.

Putin's visit took place despite warnings of a possible assassination plot and amid hopes that personal diplomacy could help offer a solution to an international standoff on Iran's nuclear program. Putin's trip was thrown into doubt when the Kremlin said Sunday that he had been informed by Russian intelligence services that suicide attackers might try to kill him in Tehran, but he ignored the warning.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini dismissed reports about the purported assassination plot as disinformation spread by adversaries hoping to damage the good relations between Russia and Iran.

Putin has warned the U.S. and other nations against trying to coerce Iran into reining in its nuclear program and insists peaceful dialogue is the only way to deal with Iranian defiance of a U.N. Security Council demand that it suspend uranium enrichment.

Iran's rejection of the council's demand and its previous clandestine atomic work has fed suspicions in the U.S. and other countries that Tehran is working to enrich uranium to a purity usable in nuclear weapons. Iran insists it is only wants less enriched uranium to fuel nuclear reactors that would generate electricity. Putin's visit to Tehran is being closely watched for any possible shifts in Russia's carefully hedged stance in the nuclear standoff.

Even though Russia has shielded Tehran from a U.S. push for a third round of U.N. sanctions, Iran has voiced annoyance about Moscow's delays in building a nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr under a $1 billion contract.

Moscow also has ignored Iranian demands to ship fuel for the plant, saying it would be delivered only six months before the Bushehr plant goes on line. The launch date has been delayed indefinitely amid the payment dispute. Any sign by Putin that Russia could quickly complete the power plant would embolden Iran and further cloud Russia's relations with the West.


Pat said...

The only reason Putin is in Tehran is to increase tensions in the middle east so that the sale of Russian arms, missles and gold can increase. Most on the Balck market where Putin's pockets get a kick back!
Pay attention to the words and political campaign of Garry Kasparov for the Other Russia - the man is articulate and forthright in his bid for Russia's next president in March 2008! Putin is unable to run another term.

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