Iran eyes regional cooperation under sanctions   2010-12-25 05:57:43 FeedbackPrintRSS

TEHRAN, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- As the United Nations Security Council and Western countries tightened sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program in 2010, Iran worked out initiatives to boost regional cooperation to offset the pressures.

By barring nuclear and military exports to Iran and targeting investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals as well as banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping, Western countries have sought to isolate the Islamic Republic, in a bid to make Iran sit at the negotiating table and soften its stance over its nuclear program.

Since mid-2010, Iran has sought to expand its cooperation with regional countries in diverse areas including energy, economy, trade and politics to slow down the impact of pressures.

Turkey was perhaps one the priorities of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy to turn to due to the border and ideological proximities. The tendency has also been welcomed by Iran's northwestern neighbor.

To gain Turkey and Brazil's support, Iran signed a nuclear swap deal with Turkey and Brazil on May 17 at the tripartite meeting of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iran's nuclear program in Tehran.

In the nuclear swap deal Iran agreed to a draft proposal whereby it would send some 1,200 kg of its 3.5 percent enriched uranium over to Turkey in exchange for a total of 120 kg of 20 percent uranium needed for a medical research reactor.

Also, in August, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that Iran favors the inclusion of Turkey and Brazil in the upcoming nuclear talks between Iran and world's major powers.

On June 9, Turkey voted against the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 with which additional sanctions including an arms embargo and tightening restrictions on financial and shipping enterprises related to "proliferation-sensitive activities" was adopted against Iran.

In a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit held in Lisbon in November, NATO leaders, pushed by Turkey, did not explicitly mention the name of Iran as potential threat in NATO paper.

In the other front, Iran has struggled to establish friendly relations with the Muslim Arab states who have, now and then, expressed their dissatisfaction with the new emergent power of Iran in the region.

Iraq, as the immediate neighboring Arab state to the west of Iran, has always been a focus of controversy and rivalry between the West and Iran whereby both sides wanted to advance with their own strategy and interests.

Though Iran has claimed that it is bargaining for the sake of Iraq's peace and stability, it has also preferred to establish good economic relations with Iraq facing the threat of the sanctions and its impacts.

On March 30, Iran and Iraq planned to build a joint industrial town at Bashmaq border which connects Iran's western province of Kurdistan to the Iraqi Sulaimaniyah.

Head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines Yahya Al-Ishaq has said Iran regards Iraq as one of the major investment locations in the Middle East region.

Iraq's market and economic relations with Iran is a great opportunity for Tehran, and any failure to observe this opportunity would cause some loss to the country, he said in November.

According to local media, in August Iraq's Central Bank approved applications by two Iranian banks, Parsian and Karafarin, to operate in the country and open branches in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

To expand its regional influence, Iran said in August that it would stand by Syria and Lebanon in the face of Israeli aggression, stressing that such a convergence will create power which will make the Israeli officials think twice about their plan to impose another war in the region.

Meanwhile, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said in late August that Iran is fully prepared to provide Lebanese army with cutting-edge military equipment.

On October 14, Lebanon and Iran signed 16 agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landmark visit to Lebanon. It was followed by the signing of nine more MoUs, on November 29, on expansion of mutual cooperation between the two countries as Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri wrapped up his visit to the Islamic Republic.

Hariri said during his visit to Tehran that Lebanon would not join any scheme against Iran's nuclear program, the comment which Iran was willingly looking for in its relations with the Arab state.

Among other Arab countries, Qatar, as a partner for Iran in extracting the gas resources in the Persian Gulf, is also highly important for Iran, so that both countries have made pledges over the past few years to further develop their economic relations, especially their oil and gas cooperation both within and outside of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Alongside its Turk and Arab neighbors, Iran's northern neighboring states have as well had a distinguished place within the framework of Iran's foreign policy, especially in dealing with the mounting sanction pressures.

Iran and Armenia have agreed on a contract for a 350-km pipeline construction that to increase the export of Iran's oil products to Armenia.

On October 14, Armenia and Iran announced that they jointly launched the construction of a third power transmission line which upon completion will increase the power exchange capacity between the two countries up to 1,000 megawatts. Armenia exports electricity to Iran in return for natural gas supplies from Iran to Armenia via the Iran-Armenia natural gas pipeline.

Turkmenistan and Iran are currently engaged in the construction of a multipurpose gas pipeline extending Turkmen gas into Iran to supply gas to six northern provinces of Iran and to create a new corridor for swap and transit of gas to east European market.

Besides the above-mentioned regional ties, Iran also puts high priority on its relations with Russia which it considers as the pressure lever against the western-led sanctions.

In November, with the help of Russian experts, fuel loading into Iran's first nuclear power plant was completed and the country hailed the move as a big victory, orchestrated by both Iran and Russia, challenging the western sanctions.

Before the fuel loading began, the western countries led by the U.S. had demanded Russia postpone fuel injection into the Bushehr nuclear power plant until Iran could prove it had no intention of developing nuclear weapons.

However, Russia replied the Bushehr plant project is a necessity to persuade the Islamic Republic to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and implement its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Observers say Russia is very clear about Iran's significance to it. Out of its own interests, Russia would love to take flexible actions concerning Iran's controversial nuclear program and maintain the bilateral relations instead of leaving Iran alone.

With the advancement of the ties with regional countries, Iran could weaken, to some extent, the impacts of isolating policies adopted by Western countries over its controversial nuclear program.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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