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    IRAN UPHOLDS ITS CASPIAN DIVISION STANCE

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    BAKU, MARCH 17 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Iran will not recognize bilateral and trilateral Caspian agreements and renounces its Caspian-division position until all the five Caspian states have inked the package legal-status agreement, Iranian chief delegate Mehdi Safari said on Wednesday after a session of the special working group for the Caspian Sea.

    In addition, Iran is still for either leaving the Caspian sea in common use, or its being divided into national sectors, he said. Iran claims only 20.4 percent of the sea, he added.

    The agreements signed by some Caspian states on the bilateral and trilateral basis "only confuse and complicate the process of fixing a legal status for the Caspian sea." Iran believes that "the Caspian is a closed water body and all the decisions on its division should be taken only on the basis of five-sided consensus." Still, at the past 13th session of the Caspian working group certain successes were reached in resolving a set of conceptual problems, Mehdi said. Among them he ranked above all merchant shipping, ecology and ensuring security.

    Mehdi Safari noted that security was in the focus at the session and stressed that Iran is for "all the questions of security in the Caspian region settled exclusively by the Caspian states without interference from third countries." As is known, Russia and Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan concluded bilateral agreements on the division of the Caspian seabed on the adjacent sites in correspondence with the national frontiers. In addition, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan concluded the agreement on the recognition of the geographic coordinates of the locus of the national sectors of these three states.

    Until recently, the position of Turkmenistan on the division of the Caspian was uncertain. Now, observers say, it has become closer to the position of Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

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