Iran, Syria in talks amid stand-off with West
Daily Mail – Pakistan September 13, 2008
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.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said any Israeli attack on Lebanon depended on the Iranian nuclear issue and the Israel-Syria talks, in an interview with Iran’s state-run television on Monday.
“I can not say when Israel is going to attack Lebanon, if it is going to be soon or not. It depends on the region’s events and circumstances,” said Nasrallah, whose Lebanese Shiite group is backed by Damascus and Tehran.
“On the one hand it depends on Iran’s nuclear case, and on the other hand it depends on the indirect talks between Syria and Israel,” he added.
He was referring to the Iranian nuclear drive which the West suspects is a weapons programme under the guise of a civilian one. It has already imposed sanctions on Teheran and Washington refuses to rule out the use of force. Tehran vehemently denies it is developing nuclear weapons.
Israel and Syria, which have technically been at war for 60 years, launched indirect negotiations brokered by Turkey in May, eight years after talks were frozen over the fate of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Nasrallah assessed the current situation in the Middle East as “not stable and not calm”, but he added that Hezbollah’s “military situation is in best shape, thanks God.” Iran is a staunch supporter of Hezbollah although it denies Western and Israeli charges of military backing to the militant group which fought a devastating 2006 summer war against the Jewish state.
Sallai Meridor, ambassador of Israel, is interviewed by an editorial board at The Washington Times in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, September 9, 2008. Israel’s envoy to the United States said Tuesday that the main reason his government began talks with Syria earlier this year was to “bring about a strategic repositioning” in the Middle East by breaking up Damascus’ alliance with Iran.
In the most direct and frank public discussion by a senior Israeli official of the Jewish state’s rationale to talk to the Syrians, Ambassador Sallai Meridor said that a “U-turn” in Syria’s policy is a “litmus test” for reaching a broad peace agreement with Damascus.
“There can’t be true peace if Syria continues to align with the Iranian regime and with terror groups,” such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Mr. Meridor told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Last updated 16/09/2008