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Iranian FM to head for Moscow Monday for Caspian talks

Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi will head for Moscow on Monday to participate at a meeting of his counterparts from Caspian Sea littoral states to discuss the sea's legal status, a senior official said in Tehran on Sunday, IRNA reported.

The ministers are expected to discuss 'the issue of devising the convention on legal regime' of the Caspian Sea and examine the possibility of holding the next heads of state meeting of the Caspian littoral countries in Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

"This meeting is considered as a good opportunity for exchanging views on issues of the Caspian Sea at the foreign ministerial level," he said at a weekly news briefing.

Asefi stressed that 'the Islamic Republic always supports the resolution of issues relating to the Caspian Sea'.

"In Moscow too, (Iran) will outline its stances and call for the exploitation of Caspian resources by all its (littoral) states and cooperation among them in various fields," the official added.

The sea, traditionally known for its caviar crop, straddles Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

The five states have tried to keep a lid on their differences since the legal regime of the land-locked waters was catapulted to the core of the dispute following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Tehran has stressed that the legal regime of the Caspian Sea must be specified through a blanket consensus of all the coastal states. A large number of meetings have been held, but the coastal states have so far fallen short of finding a common ground with regard to the legal status of the sea.

The five coastal states of the Caspian Sea have to first iron out a host of fundamental differences and answer key questions, notably whether to consider the Caspian a sea or a lake.

Iran calls for a condominium, or common sovereignty, over the sea and has made it known that it will reject any unilateral action for energy exploration in the sea before the issue of the legal regime is settled.

... Payvand News - 4/4/04 ... --

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