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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khatami Courts Deputies Amid Growing U.S. Pressure

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Iranian President Mohammad Khatami wooed State Duma deputies and took indirect swipes at the United States on Wednesday as Washington hit out at both Tehran and Moscow.

With the United States already irritated by talk during Khatami's trip of new Russian arms sales to Iran, U.S. President George W. Bush announced Tuesday that sanctions against Tehran would stay.

He also added to tensions with Russia by saying Moscow was not an enemy for the United States, but could be a threat. "Iran and Russia play an important role in the region and make a major contribution to its security, establishing peace and security and supporting its economic growth and development," Khatami told the Duma.

Referring to Russia's aid to Iran to build a nuclear power plant in the Gulf port of Bushehr, which Washington says could help Tehran build nuclear weapons, Khatami made one of several indirect but clear criticisms of the United States. "This political will and decisiveness is shown by Russia's positive and praiseworthy approach to attempts to hamper cooperation between our two states, especially in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy," he said.

Khatami got Russian support after Bush's sanctions news.

"Sanctions are not the way to solve any problems, if such problems exist," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was quoted by news agencies as saying after meeting Khatami.

Bush, whose administration is avowedly cooler to Russia than that of his predecessor, said Tuesday that Moscow could be a threat if it wanted to be but was not an enemy.

He made the comments as he set out his theories about Russia in relation to the vexed question of missile defense.

U.S. plans to build a Son of Star Wars missile defense shield have angered Russia, which says the shield would be aimed against its nuclear arsenal rather than rogue states, as Washington describes Iran, North Korea and Libya.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday echoed Bush's comments in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.

"It is not wise to invest in regimes that do not follow international standards of behavior," Powell said.

Powell said the Bush administration will pursue a "realistic" policy toward Moscow, intending to nudge Russia into a better relationship.

Zeroing in on the Russian-Iranian deals, Powell said "we have to be candid with the Russians" and tell them they should not be "investing in weapons sales in countries such as Iran which have no future."

"We don't want an enemy, we want a friend," Powell said, "but we have to be realistic"

Powell told a reporter, meanwhile, that he will ask Sergei Ivanov, head of the Security Council, to provide details of the decision to resume selling arms to Iran after a five-year hiatus.

"What exactly did they agree to? We will try to find that out," Powell said of a impending meeting with Ivanov.

Back in Russia, Khatami flew later on Wednesday to St. Petersburg, where he visited the Hermitage Museum. He was scheduled to visit the Izhora factory on the city's periphery on Thursday, where parts are made for the Busher plant.

The factory makes reactor cores, steam turbines and other special equipment for nuclear reactors. A spokesman said the Iranian order is 90 percent complete and will be delivered by the end of this year.

(Reuters, AP)