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    No plans to expand SCO - Russian defense minister

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    There are no plans to expand the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to include Iran, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday.

    VIDYAEVO, Murmansk Region, May 16 (RIA Novosti) - There are no plans to expand the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to include Iran, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday.

    Iran currently holds observer status at the regional security organization, which is set to hold its sixth summit of leaders on June 15 in Shanghai, and Tehran announced Monday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to attend the summer meeting.

    But Ivanov appeared to rule out Iran's joining the SCO as a full member. "Due the escalation of the situation surrounding Iran, such reports are going to appear 10 times a day," he said. "There are no plans to broaden the SCO radically. I do not think that in the foreseeable future the SCO will substantially expand its membership."

    The minister, on a visit to the far north of European Russia, added, "All members of the SCO will approach the issue of expanding the organization with great care and consideration," Ivanov said.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that relations with observer countries, which also include India, Pakistan and Mongolia, would be spelled out during the June summit.

    Pakistan has already stated that it wants to join the other full members of the group - Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan - and President Pervez Musharraf has been officially invited to attend the Shanghai meeting.

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