Putin to visit Iran despite threats

Putin is travelling to Iran for a summit of leaders from the five states around the Caspian Sea [AFP]
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“The competent authorities are actively working with foreign partners on the information received yesterday about a terrorist threat in relation to Russia’s head of state,” the source was quoted on Monday as saying by RIA, Itar-Tass and Interfax news agencies in virtually identical reports.

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Putin said he would not call off his trip but he acknowledged the intelligence reports, adding that the security services “must do their work”.

 

“Of course I am going to Iran,” Putin told a news conference after talks with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

“If you react to various threats and recommendations of the security services, then you should sit at home”.

 

Iran denial

But Tehran has described as “totally baseless” the report, which said Russian security services had been told suicide bombers and kidnappers were training to kill or capture Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president is travelling to Tehran to attend a summit of the five states that surround the Caspian Sea, and Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said this would go ahead as planned.

 

“Reports published by some media are totally baseless and are in line with the psychological war launched by enemies who want to harm Iran and Russia’s relationship,” Hosseini said.

 

Putin is the first Kremlin leader to travel to Iran since Josef Stalin, the former Soviet leader, attended a wartime summit with Winston Churchill, former British prime minister, and Franklin Roosevelt, former US president, in 1943.

‘Bombers preparing’

The Interfax report said that: “a reliable source in one of the Russian special services, has received information from several sources outside Russia, that during the president of Russia’s visit to Tehran an assassination attempt is being plotted.

“It could
be some international scheme, perhaps connected
with Russia’s enemies like the Chechens”


Fred Weir,
Christian Science Monitor

“A number of groups of suicide bombers are preparing for this aim.”

Fred Weir, Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, told Al Jazeera that assassination plots against the Russian leader had previously been discovered in Ukraine and Azerbaijan, both reportedly connected to the separatist movement in Chechnya.

“It could be some international scheme, perhaps connected with Russia’s enemies like the Chechens,” he said.

“Or it could be some elaborate rumour, in Russia we have this transitional phase, we are not sure if Putin is leaving his job or changing his job next year. All of this sort of thing excites power struggles and rumours are a major weapon in that.”

Putin’s second term as president ends next year and the constitution prevents him standing for a third consecutive term. He has said he will stand for parliament and could become prime minister.

Nuclear standoff

Putin is expected to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, during his visit, giving him a chance to attempt to find a peaceful solution to the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Although Russia has backed two rounds of punitive UN sanctions against Iran, Moscow says engagement is a more effective way of tackling the situation.

Putin said on Monday that negotiation was the best tool for dealing with Iran and trying to intimidate Tehran was “hopeless”.

“But to demonstrate patience and look for a way out is possible and should be done,” he said.

“If we have a chance to keep up these direct contacts, then we will do it, hoping for a positive, mutually advantageous result.”

Russia has sold weapons to Iran, in defiance of US concerns, and is building a nuclear power station at Bushehr.

 
 
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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