By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Published: October 16 2007 08:40 | Last updated: October 16 2007 23:06
Vladimir Putin was on Tuesday night reported to have invited his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, to talks in Moscow in a move that could increase tensions between Russia and the US.
Tass, the Russian news agency, quoted a statement from the two leaders as saying: “[Mr] Ahmadi-Nejad accepted the invitation with gratitude.” No date was set for the meeting.
The announcement came after the two men held talks in Tehran after a Caspian Sea summit dominated by international concern over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Mr Putin, the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit Iran since Stalin’s wartime summit with Churchill and Roosevelt in 1943, agreed with other Caspian Sea states to endorse “peaceful” nuclear activities in the region and made clear Moscow’s opposition to military action against Iran.
He joined the leaders of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, as well as Iran, in agreeing not to allow their territories to be used for an attack on any member of the Caspian group – an indirect reference to the US.
Washington has not ruled out military action in its stand-off with Iran.
Azerbaijan has a partnership with Nato, which has led to speculation that the US could use Azeri airfields for a future strike.
Mr Putin said that the Caspian states were committed to nuclear non-proliferation.
He was later granted a rare meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. The encounter was seen as highly significant by Iranian analysts but unlikely to offer a breakthrough in the stand-off between Tehran and the west. “It is unlikely for Mr Putin to play the role of a mediator and convey the west’s concerns and it’s unlikely for Iran to show any retreat on its nuclear programme,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, a political analyst.
Iranian analysts said the summit was a symbolic success for Tehran but they warned that Russia, which has signed two UN resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran, might be persuaded to abandon Tehran if it obtained concessions in other areas from the west.
Mr Putin said Russia would not back out of its commitment on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. The project has, in Iran, become a symbol of mistrust toward Russia because Moscow refuses to deliver fuel – ostensibly because of a payment dispute – even after the Islamic regime agreed to return fuel waste.
The US on Tuesday night declined to respond to Mr Putin’s invitation to Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, insisting that it was up to Russia to decide how it conducted its relations.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007