Russia Cements Ties with Iran, Syria amid Standoff with West

A009476310.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Russian diplomatic and military officials held talks with their Iranian and Syrian counterparts Friday, amid tensions with the West following Russia’s conflict with Georgia last month.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for talks on the completion by a Russian company of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, a cooperation that has worried Washington.

The head of the Russian company working on Iran’s first nuclear power plant, Atomstroiexport, said earlier this week that the start-up of the first reactor at Bushehr would be “irreversible” by February next year.

The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran says it has a sovereign right like any country to develop nuclear power, stressing that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

The US has refused to rule out the use of force.

Lavrov said the talks would also focus on the Georgia conflict.

US President George W. Bush announced this week he was freezing progress on a US-Russia civilian nuclear cooperation pact because of Russia’s military intervention in Georgia.

Russia on Friday also held talks with another close Middle East ally, Syria, on the use of the Soviet-era Mediterranean naval base at Tartus, Interfax and RIA Novosti reported.

Russian Navy commander Vladimir Vysotsky and his Syrian counterpart General Taleb al-Barri discussed stepping up Russia’s use of the Tartus base in line with an increase in Russian naval missions, the reports said.

Russia has in recent years moved to reactivate its use of the base, which was heavily used in the Soviet era to resupply ships in the Mediterranean. Russia does not have a permanent base in the Mediterranean.

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