Iranian, Azeri leaders hold pre-Caspian talks

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TEHRAN (AFP) | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to hold talks in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, on Wednesday ahead of a summit of countries bordering the Caspian Sea, the Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast did not elaborate on the topics Mr. Ahmadinejad would discuss with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev.

However, he said a “security agreement, environmental issues and fisheries” in the Caspian Sea would be on the agenda of Thursday’s summit of the five bordering nations - Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan as well as Azerbaijan and Iran.

“Also during the summit, the president will hold bilateral talks with other Caspian Sea heads of state,” Mr. Mehmanparast told a briefing on Tuesday.

The summit will mark Mr. Ahmadinejad’s first encounter with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, since relations between Tehran and Moscow nose-dived over Russia’s refusal to deliver advanced S-300 air-defense missiles following the adoption of the latest package of U.N. sanctions against Iran on June 9.

Top Iranian officials, including Mr. Ahmadinejad, have lashed out at Russia for canceling the deal. The Iranian president charged in early November that Russia had “sold out” to Iran’s archfoe, the United States.

Russia had come under strong U.S. and Israeli pressure not to go through with the deal for the S-300s, which were seen as potentially complicating any resort to military action over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Russia, which had retained close relations with Iran and built its first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr, said it would reimburse Tehran for its down payments on the deal.

The contract was estimated to be worth a total of $800 million.

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