Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Khatami To Visit Azerbaijan

Khatami To Visit Azerbaijan: Official


BAKU (AFP) -- Iran's President Mohammad Khatami is due to travel to Azerbaijan next week, an Azeri official said Tuesday, in the first visit by an Iranian leader to the neighboring republic for more than 10 years.

Relations between the two countries have been soured by a long-running row over exploration rights in the Caspian Sea, home to some of the world's biggest untapped oil and gas reserves.

President Khatami will be arriving on August 5 for a two-day visit, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran, Abbasali Hasanov, told the Azeri ANS television station. No further details of the visit were released.

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic on Iran's northwestern border. Like Iran, the majority of its population are Shiite Muslims.

The last time an Iranian leader came to Azerbaijan was in 1993, when then President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani visited. But since then, promised visits have been repeatedly postponed amid disagreements.

It was widely hoped that Khatami's visit could provide a new impetus to efforts by the two countries -- along with the other three states with Caspian Sea shorelines -- to reach agreement on their maritime borders."

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