Iran's FM visit to Moscow "consequential"

Two Iranian parliamentarians termed as "consequential" a two-day planned official trip of Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi to Moscow aimed at expanding bilateral ties and discussing regional and international issues. In an exclusive interview with the English-language daily `Iran News' published Tuesday, parliamentarian Mohammad Kianoush-Rad, representing Ahwaz in Khuzestan province, called Iran-Russia ties "significant" from many aspects and called for an expansion of these ties. "Taking into account the prevailing regional crisis and the threats facing Iran, the foreign ministry and Iranian diplomacy as a whole should redouble its efforts to portray Iranian foreign policy in a positive light to the rest of the world. "In light of the mounting US accusations against Iran, this trip will be even more crucial," he said. He noted that many issues are on the Tehran-Moscow table for discussion, citing the legal regime of the Caspian Sea, expansion of bilateral, economic and other ties. Kianoush-Rad, who is also a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Majlis, however singled out post-Sept 11 developments in the region and the world as most likely to dominate talks by the two sides. He also cited the US president's recent accusations against Iran as an important item for discussion between diplomats of the two countries. Russia is keen to have close military ties with Iran and has signed a cooperation agreement with Iran pertaining to the transfer of technology and sale of military hardware, he said. However, the Russians have clearly stated they will not be selling any nuclear technology to Iran, he added. They have also indicated they will no longer be bound by the old Soviet-US treaty preventing arms sales to Iran, suggesting closer military contacts with Iran, he said. He expressed hope that bilateral ties will expand for the mutual benefit of both countries and that the Russians would continue to cooperate with Iran toward completion of the Bushehr Nuclear Power lant. Also talking to the daily was parliamentarian Kazem Jalali representing Shahroud, Semnan province, who said that even if prevailing circumstances were different and Iran was not facing any kind of threat, Kharrazi's trip to Moscow would still be significant in view of Russia's influence in the region and the world as a whole. Obviously, "the current crisis only adds to the significance of the trip," said Jalali, who also happens to be also a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Majlis. "We have nuclear cooperation with Russia and they have acted positively in this regard," he noted. He noted that the Russians have also taken favorable stances in issues affecting Iran over the last few weeks, particularly their condemnation of Bush's allegations accusing Iran, along with Iraq and N. Korea, of being an "axis of evil." "The Russians want to work with us and we should encourage them," he said. The MP concluded with the hope that both Iran and Russia could continue to reach logical and rational understandings on issues affecting their mutual interest, something the MP said is "too much to expect from them."

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