RFE/RL IRAN REPORT, Vol. 3, No. 40, 23 October 2000

RUSSIA'S IVANOV IN TEHRAN AMIDST NUCLEAR DEAL UPROAR. Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov arrived in Tehran on 17 October to participate in discussions regarding Central Asian security and terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. (While there, Ivanov linked violence in the West Bank with the Taliban, "RFE/RL Newsline" reported on 16 October.) Moscow's official ITAR-TASS news agency reported that economic issues would be the focus of the discussions, particularly problems with the Bushehr nuclear power plant. According to Iranian state radio, the two sides also would discuss Caspian Sea exploitation, trade, and production of the Russian Tu-334-100 aircraft. Ivanov's Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, said that ties between Iran and Russia are not directed against any other country. Rohani also emphasized that Russia and Iran must cooperate in "defending the oppressed Palestinian nation and condemning the Zionist regime's crimes," IRNA reported. Ivanov delivered an invitation from President Vladimir Putin for President Mohammad Khatami to visit Russia. Ivanov told Rohani that Russia's relations with Iran will not be influenced by a third party. Ivanov's visit to Tehran came in the midst of reports that the U.S. government had agreed not to put sanctions on Moscow for sending arms to Iran in exchange for Russian promises that it would eventually stop. According to reports in the American press, former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin wrote a letter to U.S. Vice President Al Gore in which Gore was asked to withhold information from Congress about Russian nuclear deals with Iran, the "Washington Times" reported on 17 October. That paper suggested that this would appear to violate the Nuclear Non-proliferation Act, which requires the White House to keep Congress informed about such transactions. Moreover, a classified analysis accompanying the letter warned that such transactions could lead to Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. Russian sales to Iran of conventional arms also reportedly were overlooked, these American newspaper stories suggested, following a 1995 aide-memoire signed by Gore and Chernomyrdin that effectively agreed to waive sanctionable weapons sales to state sponsors of terrorism. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the agreement was in the U.S. national interest. And he said that Moscow has fulfilled a pledge not to sign any new arms deals with Iran, AFP reported on 13 October. When Khatami met with Ivanov on 18 October, he said that Iran's nuclear cooperation with Russia is peaceful and Iran has a right to use nuclear technology. He also emphasized that Iranian activities respect international norms. Ivanov also met IRGC commander Yahya Rahim-Safavi. Meanwhile, Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar- Zanganeh arrived in Moscow on 17 October to participate in a Russian-Iranian trade, economic, and scientific commission. The two sides then signed a memorandum on expanding cooperation in the areas of oil and gas, electric power, and industry. A member of the commission told Interfax that Russia would finance and build a new thermal power plant in Iran, and it would continue work on two other thermal power stations. Also, Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Safari and Russian Railroads Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko met to discuss a direct rail link in the context of the North-South transport corridor, Interfax reported on 13 October. This would involve a ferry from the Russia's Olya port to Iran's Bandar Anzali. (Bill Samii)

Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.