SLUG: 2-269607 Russia / Iran (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: Russia is planning to resume military cooperation with Iran, and is backing out of a 1995 agreement with the United States that was aimed at ending Russian arms sales to Iran and other so-called "rogue" states. Larry James reports from Moscow.

TEXT: No one here is speaking out publicly on the issue, but senior Foreign Ministry officials confirm that Moscow has decided to scrap an agreement with the United States banning arms sales to Iran, and will resume cooperating with Tehran.

The Russian officials say they are canceling the arrangement because of what were termed positive changes in Iran, and also because they believe the United States violated the confidentiality of the accord when details appeared in the Washington Post (newspaper). The Russians also say there is further proof Washington violated the deal because U-S-made weapons are now in the hands of the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Reports from Washington quoting senior U-S officials say the Clinton administration will consider imposing sanctions if it cannot talk Moscow out of its decision. An unnamed official says there are ongoing talks between the two countries on the issue, and that Washington has made it clear there will be consequences if Moscow cancels the arrangement.

The U-S Russian agreement was negotiated in 1995 by Vice President Al Gore and then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. It excused Russia from American sanctions in return for Moscow's pledge not to sell conventional arms to Iran after 1999.

The agreement has generated controversy in Washington, with proponents saying it was in the United States' strategic interests to get a commitment from Moscow to end sales to Iran by a specific date. Opponents say the agreement gives Moscow free rein to fulfill contracts already signed for the delivery of a wide variety of conventional weapons, including a submarine, torpedoes and tanks. They also argue that the deal may have been illegal, since a 1992 law requires the United States to impose sanctions on Russia if it sells arms to Iran. (Signed)