Iran, Syria talks in Moscow amid stand-off with West

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 West suspects that Iran is developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program that includes the Bushehr plant. It has imposed sanctions on Tehran and the US has refused to rule out the use of force.

Iran vehemently denies it is developing nuclear weapons and says it has a sovereign right like any country to develop nuclear power.

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

[Source: Pak Tribune, Moscow, 12Sep08]

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