Putin’s Iran visit to go ahead despite assassination threat

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin insisted yesterday he would travel to Iran today despite reports about a possible assassination attempt, arguing direct contact and “peaceful means” were the only way to deal with the country’s nuclear program.

Russia’s Interfax news agency, citing a source in Russia’s security services, said that suicide terrorists had been trained to carry out the assassination in Iran. The Kremlin said Mr Putin was informed of the threat.

“Of course, I am going to Iran,” Mr Putin told reporters at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks in Wiesbaden. “If I always listened to all the various threats and the recommendations of the special services I would never leave home.”

Mr Putin said the trip was a chance to support direct dealings with Iran. He cited North Korea, which recently agreed to take its nuclear reactor out of service, as an example of the results achievable by diplomacy: “We were patient and consistently looked for solutions and it looks like we are finding them. The same has to be applied, we believe, in the case of the Iranian nuclear program.

“We can and must be patient and look for a way out. Can we do it without having a dialogue with the Iranian leadership and people? I think it’s impossible.”

Mr Putin underlined that Russia planned to work with Europe and the US.

Washington is pushing for a third, tougher round of sanctions against Tehran for refusing to give up its unranium enrichment program.

“As we have said, we fully expect that he will convey the concerns shared by all of us about the failure of Iran to comply with the international community’s requirements concerning its nuclear program,” said Tom Casey, a spokesman at the State Department in Washington.

Russia has been sceptical of more Security Council sanctions and is building Iran’s first nuclear reactor. But it has delayed completion and urged Tehran to comply with international controls on its program.

Mr Putin is to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and attend today’s summit of Caspian Sea nations. He is the first Kremlin leader to travel to Iran since Josef Stalin.

Mr Putin’s trip “is a break in international isolation, a chance to show that Iran is an important country,” said Alexander Pikayev, Iran expert with Russia’s Institute for World Economy and International Relations.

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