Russian officials continue to hint that Russia might not end its arms sales to Iran in 1999 as President Boris Yeltsin assured President Bill Clinton at their 1993 Washington summit. Many in Moscow have long chaffed at the American effort to isolate the present Iranian government. On March 29 an unnamed source in the Foreign Ministry observed that: "Iran is situated far from the United States while for Russia it is a neighboring country which has a real ability to influence the situation in the region neighboring the CIS." Others have noted that Yeltsin’s pledge was not part of any treaty or legally-binding document. In 1993 Iran was Russia’s largest arms customer and current contracts are said to total some $1 billion. The state-owned arms export company Rosvooruzhenie and the defense industry see Iran as a lucrative market for further contracts. Eager to further cement its close relations with Tehran, Rosvooruzhenie recently spent 1 billion rubles to provide humanitarian aid in the form of some 4,000 wool blankets and 2,000 jackets for earthquake victims in northeastern Iran. (Interfax, March 29)
Tolboev and Maskhadov Negotiate with Field Commanders Over Kidnapped Journalists.