Russia plays Iranian card

Moscow and Tehran are expected to sign early next week a treaty concerning the foundations of Russian-Iranian relations and the principles of cooperation between the two countries. This document, which is supposed not to supersede the treaties already existing between the two countries, is to be signed during the official visit to Moscow of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami starting March 12th. The Iranian president is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin the same day. He will also meet with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. This treaty will not contain "mutual obligations of an ally or military-political nature, nor will it contain the term 'strategic partnership.” It is "a usual framework treaty, which shows that good relations are developing between Russia and Iran," experts are quoted by Interfax as saying. During his visit to Russia, the Iranian president is also scheduled to visit St. Petersburg and Tatarstan, to meet with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II and the top Russian mufti, Ravil Gainutdin. This will be the Iranian president's first visit to Russia. The last time an Iranian leader visited Moscow was in June of 1989. It also seems very likely that in the future Russia and Iran will sign an agreement on military-technical cooperation similar to those Russia already has with other countries. The Iranian arms market is important for Russia, although it is risky, Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Strategies and Technologies Analysis Centre is quoted by Interfax as saying. He estimates that, given favourable political and economic conditions, Iran may become third – after India and China – buyer of Russian weapons. Last year, Russia notified US of its withdrawal from the Gore-Chernomyrdin memorandum under which Russia was supposed not to cooperate with Iran in the military-technological field.

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