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Putin warns against Iran attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned against military action on Iran and backed its right to nuclear energy, during the first visit to the country by a Kremlin chief since World War II.

Putin, attending a summit meeting of Caspian Sea states, arrived in the Iranian capital amid heavy security and secrecy over his travel plans after reports that a squad of suicide bombers planned to kill him. “It is important... that we not only do not use any kind of force but also do not even think about the possibility of using force,” Putin told the four other Caspian Sea leaders gathered for the summit.

“It is also important that we talk about the impossibility of using our territory for other countries to carry out aggression or military action against other Caspian littoral states.”

Along with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, Putin declared the states “would not allow their territory to be used by a third country to commit military action against one of the parties.”

The United States has never ruled out military action against Tehran, but Iran’s northern neighbour Azerbaijan, a US ally, has repeatedly insisted it would not allow the US military to launch an attack from its soil.

Tuesday’s declaration also supported Iran’s right to nuclear energy, which the United States claims Tehran only wants as cover for an atomic weapons drive.

It backed the right of Non-Proliferation Treaty members to “research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful ends, without discrimination, within the framework of this treaty and the mechanisms of the UN nuclear watchdog.” Putin’s comments highlighted the differences between Russia and the West, which is seeking more unilateral and UN sanctions to punish Tehran for its nuclear defiance.

Russia has insisted that diplomacy is the way to solve the standoff and has said it is not convinced by the Western claims Iran’s nuclear programme is military in nature. Tehran insists its atomic drive is entirely peaceful.

Putin also held talks with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, when the Russian president said Moscow had an interest in a “strong Iran” and predicted that relations would expand further, state television reported. Reports on Russian news agencies of an assassination threat had cast doubt over whether Putin would go ahead with the visit but to the relief of Iranian officials, his plane landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport early on Tuesday.

The arrangements for Putin’s departure were also being kept under wraps.

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