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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakh Head Urges Iran's Cooperation

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Kazakhstan's president called for wide-ranging cooperation with Iran on Friday, saying better relations will guarantee stability in the region, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Nursultan Nazarbayev said in a two-hour meeting in Almaty with Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, that the two countries could cooperate in transportation, industry, agriculture, trade and the oil and gas sectors, IRNA reported in a despatch monitored in Cyprus.

Velayati arrived in the Kazakh capital Friday on a six-nation tour of Central Asia and the Caucasus seeking to boost Iran's influence in the strategic, predominantly Moslem region.

Earlier this week he visited Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. He is also scheduled to visit Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan in the Caucasus.

Tehran has set up air links with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and is integrating road and rail networks in an ambitious drive to link the region with the Persian Gulf and to international shipping routes.

The Iranians have been striving to develop ties with the Islamic republics of Central Asia since they became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kazakhstan, the largest and richest country in the region, is a key target for Tehran.

But the Iranians face stiff competition from Turkey and Russia in the struggle for economic and political influence in the region.

With U.S. backing, Turkey has been attempting to undermine Iran's fundamentalist Moslem influence.

Russia has been scrabbling to preserve control over oil and gas routes through its former empire, vital for their economic dividends and political leverage.