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Russia, Iran could double trade in few years - deputy Russian FM

Russian-Iranian trade turnover that totaled $2 billion in 2006 could double in the next few years, a deputy Russian foreign minister said.
TEHRAN, May 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russian-Iranian trade turnover that totaled $2 billion in 2006 could double in the next few years, a deputy Russian foreign minister said.

"Trade turnover between Russia and Iran that totaled $2 billion was in our favor. Now our sales are decreasing. But in years to come, there are prospects that bilateral trade turnover will double," Alexander Losyukov told RIA Novosti Tuesday at the end of a two-day visit to Tehran.

Losyukov met with a deputy Iranian foreign minister, Mehdi Safari, and parliamentarians to discuss bilateral relations, regional issues, including the situation in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the two countries' interaction in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Losyukov said Russia and Iran have common interests in the region, including stability in Afghanistan and a resolution to the issue of the Caspian's legal status, as well as the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.

"In the trade and economic sphere, we also have many common interests, in particular, in oil and gas. Iranians, while being big producers of oil and gas, are interested in coordinating price policy, volumes of energy production and transportation with Russia," he said, adding the Caspian states' foreign ministers could meet in Tehran in the second part of June to discuss the Caspian's legal status.

Losyukov also said the two countries were interested in the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant Russia is building in Iran's south on a 1995 contract, and in military cooperation. He added that Russia hoped the NPP would be completed despite existing problems.

"Bushehr is a contract beneficial for Russia, although it is affected by the Iranian nuclear problem, but we have made a lot of efforts so the Bushehr NPP is not part of the UN Security Council sanctions, and intend to transparently work on this project in accordance with Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA Charter. I hope we will complete it," he said.

The $1-billion project, implemented under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came under threat of suspension after Russian contractors said in February that Tehran had only covered 60% of the required funding by the fourth quarter of 2006, and had completely stopped payment in mid-January.

Following negotiations with Iranian officials, Russia's nuclear export monopoly Atomstroyexport said in March that Iran had made part of the payments but still had to cover the arrears.

Another round of bilateral talks in Moscow April 21-22 yielded a bilateral deal outlining a set of measures to provide stable financing for the project. The Bushehr project was originally to be commissioned in July 1999, but the deadline has been revised five times since then.

Losyukov said Iranian officials have reiterated that Iran is not pursuing the aim of creating nuclear weapons.

Since Iran resumed uranium enrichment in January 2006, the country has been the focus of international concerns, as some Western countries, particularly the U.S., suspect Tehran is pursuing a covert weapons program. But Tehran has consistently claimed it needs nuclear power for civilian power generation and is fully entitled to its own nuclear program.

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