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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iran, Belarus sign defence agreement

Tehran, Jan 23, 2007 (AFP) - Iran and its top European ally Belarus on Monday signed an agreement on defence cooperation, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Iranian Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar signed the memorandum of understanding with his Belarussian counterpart Leonid Maltsev, who was on a two-day visit to Tehran.

"Exchanging expert delegations, transfer of defence experience and cooperation in technical and educational fields are included in this memorandum of understanding," the agency said.

Maltsev also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Rahim Safavi.

Belarus has emerged as a prominent supporter of Iran, openly backing Iran's contested nuclear programme.

Despite fierce Western criticism, Belarus has also sold Russian-made conventional military equipment and spare parts to Iran.

The deal was signed as Iran launched a round of war games to test short-range missiles amid the mounting international pressure on Tehran over its failure to suspend nuclear work.

The two countries already signed a raft of deals to massively increase bilateral trade in a November 2006 visit by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko to Tehran.

Lukashenko's government has been fiercely criticised by the European Union and the United States, who accuse him of running an authoritarian regime that clamps down on human rights.
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