October 15, 2007

Putin to visit Iran despite assassination warning

10:04 | 15/ 10/ 2007

MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Iran this week despite a warning by his secret service that an alleged plot to assassinate him has been in the works, the Kremlin press service said Monday.

During his October 15-16 visit, Putin will meet with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and attend Tuesday's summit of Caspian Sea nations. It is the first visit of a Russian or Soviet leader to Iran since 1943, when Joseph Stalin met with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in Tehran for a wartime conference.

The press service did not comment on the alleged assassination plot, and said preparations were continuing for Putin to take part in the Caspian summit.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday the allegations were ungrounded, and called them part of a psychological war waged by Tehran's enemies.

"These reports [on a planned assassination attempt] are part of a psychological war waged by the enemies of Iran to harm Iranian-Russian relations," said Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

It is not the first time the media has circulated reports of assassination attempts against the current Russian leader.

In October 2001, Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies said they had thwarted an assassination plot against Putin during his official visit to Baku on January 9-10. They said the would-be killer was an Iraqi national with links to Chechen militants.

In June 2007, foreign media reported a possible attempt on Putin's life during his visit to Turkey to attend the Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit.

Putin's upcoming trip to Iran will test Russia's ability to wield international political influence amid the ongoing controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.

The nuclear program is seen by some Western countries as a scheme to develop nuclear weapons, despite Iranian statements to the contrary.

President Putin stressed during a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that in the course of his visit to Iran he would continue the current line of work with the Iranian leadership, which reflects the collective position of the Iran Six and the UN Security Council.

The six nations involved in talks to persuade Iran to drop uranium enrichment are China, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

The U.S. and France have urged for tougher penalties against the Islamic Republic, but Russia said it was against unilateral sanctions against Tehran and wanted the Iranian issue to be resolved through collective efforts and political dialogue.

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