Tanks on Greek Premier's Agenda

ATHENS -- Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis flew to Moscow on Monday for an official visit focused on expanding energy and military cooperation.

The three-day trip will include talks with President Vladimir Putin amid ongoing negotiations for Greece to buy more than 400 Russian tanks.

Defense officials have announced few details of the possible deal, but state television and other Greek media said the government planned to spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.7 billion) on BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicles.

The negotiations will take place amid fresh strains between Moscow and NATO countries after Russia suspended participation last week in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

Greece, a NATO member, remains keen to keep pace in military development with regional rival Turkey. It has added Russian weapons to its arsenal to diversify its armed forces.

On Friday, Karamanlis rejected suggestions that he was trying to appease Moscow with the tank deal after supporting a pipeline project that would compete with Russian suppliers and eventually transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Italy. Greek and Turkish leaders inaugurated a section of that pipeline last month.