During a trip to Iran over the weekend, Russian deputy foreign minister Viktor Posuvalyuk emphasized Moscow’s intentions to strengthen both economic and political ties with Teheran. In remarks clearly aimed at exploiting differences between Iran and the U.S., Posuvalyuk said that Russia wants to see Iran play a greater regional role and that Moscow opposes efforts to limit Iran’s influence. Russia and Iran also share a common animosity to NATO enlargement, Posuvalyuk said. He ascribed Iran’s opposition to its fear that enlargement into Eastern Europe was but a step on the way to increasing NATO’s influence in the Near and Middle East.
But Posuvalyuk also noted several points of friction between the two countries, one of which concerns the Middle East peace process, co-sponsored by Moscow. Talks on Iranian involvement in the conflict in Tajikistan were also described by Posuvalyuk as "difficult," an admission suggesting Moscow’s real ambivalence toward any increase in Iran’s regional influence. (Itar-Tass, June 9)
From Teheran Posuvalyuk traveled to Baghdad, where, according to Iraqi radio, he repeated Moscow’s desire to boost ties with Iraq and to work for the complete lifting of the UN oil embargo. (Reuter, June 10) Earlier reports had indicated that the Russian delegation would also discuss the involvement of Russian interests in the oil-for-food deal signed by Iraq with the UN May 20.
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