Thu, Oct 18, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Putin finishes whirlwind visit to Iran

CASPIAN SEA SUMMIT Tehran's press played up the differences between Moscow and other countries after the Russian leader warned against using force against Iran

AFP , TEHRAN

Russian President Vladimir Putin left Iran late on Tuesday after a trip that saw him reinforce ties with the Islamic republic and distance himself from Western warnings over its nuclear program.

Putin attended a summit of Caspian Sea states and held talks with top Iranian leaders -- a boost for Iran at a time of increasing Western pressure.

His trip was marked by the heaviest security following a report that a squad of suicide bombers planned to kill him, and even his departure time was kept closely under wraps by Russian and Iranian officials.

The president left Iran around midnight after an exhausting one day visit that lasted around 16 hours and included talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian news agencies reported.

He warned the West not to launch an attack over the Iranian nuclear program, insisted Iran's Russian-built first nuclear power plant would be finished on schedule and backed its right to nuclear energy.

A joint statement issued by the Iranian presidency emphasized "the closeness of Russian and Iranian positions over the key world questions and the development of cooperation to establish a world order that is more just."

Unsurprisingly, Iran's hardline press was keen to play up the significance of Putin's visit as a sign of the differences between Russia and other world powers.

"Maybe the most important result of Putin's trip is to show the independence of Russia towards America and the West," said Kayhan, the mouthpiece of Iran's clerical authorities.

"The Russian statements showed a deep difference of opinion between Russia on one side and America and France on the other side in dealing with Iran's nuclear case," the hardline Jomhouri Islami said.

Ahmadinejad and Putin in their joint statement emphasized "the necessity of solving as quickly as possible the situation over the Iranian nuclear program through politics and diplomacy."

They also reaffirmed Russia's commitment to finishing Iran's first nuclear power plant in Bushehr "in line with the agreed calendar" although Putin complained about its "worn-out equipment."

It also said that Russia and Iran would speed up their discussions for the sale and construction of Tupolev 214 and 334 aircraft to Iran and spoke of increased cooperation in energy and aerospace.

Amid continued questions over whether the US will attack Iran to end its nuclear defiance, Putin gave a clear signal that military action was not the way to solve problems.

"It is important ... that we not only do not use any kind of force but also do not even think about the possibility of using force," he told his fellow Caspian Sea leaders gathered for the summit.

Along with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, Putin declared the states "would not allow their territory to be used by a third country to commit military action against one of the parties."

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