TEHRAN 29 Dec. (IPS) The visit of Russian Defence Minister Marshal Igor Segeyev to Iran was regarded by analysts as an important victory for the policies of President Vladimir Putin aimed at regaining Russian influence and dominant position in Central Asia and Caucasus while reaching the Persian Gulf.

"The visit and its outcome changes the landscape of the region, as Iran and Russia become strategic partners for the years to come. Military and political co-operation between Tehran and Moscow strengthen the position of the two countries in the region at the expenses of Pakistan and by proxy, affect also the situation in war-torn Afghanistan", commented Mr. Latif Pedram, a respected Afghan poet, writer and political analyst.

Receiving Mr. Sergeyev in his office, President Mohammad Khatami said a good and secure situation in the region could not be maintained without a close co-operation between Iran and Russia.

Describing the present state of relations between Tehran and Moscow as "good and friendly", Mr Khatami said however "some expansionist countries may not be satisfied with the growing cooperation between Iran and Russia", an indirect reference to the United States and its reported plans to establish bases in neighbouring Azarbaijan.

Though no agreement was signed during Mr. Sergeyev’s stay in Tehran, yet military experts expect that new arms, including modern S-300 missiles, Sukhoy-25 bombers, Mig-31 fighters, helicopter gun ships and new versions of the T-72 tanks worth between 3 to 7 billions be shipped to Iran during next five years.

"The obvious success of Marshal Sergeyev visit to Iran, the first ever by a Russian Defence Minister in the past three decades confirms President Putin’s policy of making Russia a world power again, but not necessarily against the West and the United States, as during the Soviet Union era", commented Dr Mohammad Mozaffari, an Iranian professor of International Politics at the Copenhagen State University

Mr. Shamkhani described the visit of his Russian counterpart "a total success" that met the strategic objectives of both Iran and Russia for the expansion of "long-term ties" in the fields of defence, security and military co-operation.

"Today is a historic moment in Iran Russian political relations, as it proved that independent states are free in choosing their allies irrespective of the views of others and external intervention'', the Iranian minister boasted.

Speaking at a joint press conference alongside Mr. Sergeyev, he praised Russia's scrapping of the Chernomydrin-Al Gore pact that banned military cooperation between Iran and Russia, and said the "new phase in Iran-Russia relations is an outstanding example of the burial of extra-territorial interventionist policies in the internal affairs of and the relations among regional states".

Mr. Khatami described the decision "a courageous move" and an "indication of the fact that Russia takes decisions in full independency".

Mr. Mozaffari noted that despite America’s stated displeasure with Moscow over the abrupt cancellation of the Chernomydrin-Al Gore agreement of 1995, the new Russian arms to be sold to Iran did not worry Washing. "What Washington is after is to continue to keep the Islamic Republic isolated until it accepts American conditions", he added, speaking to the Persian service of Radio France International.

But his visibly tired gust was less elusive; saying his talks with senior Iranian political and military officials, including Mr. Shamkhani was "highly intensive and helpful and included a wide-range of bilateral, regional and international issues".

"Iran and Russia are determined to establish new phase of military and technical cooperation between the defence centres of the two countries", the Russian Marshal said, adding that the suspension of defence co-operation between Iran and Russia since 1995 had inflicted irreparable damages to both parties.

He added that Iran and Russia had in the course of the discussions consulted on security related issues, military cooperation, and exchange of military information, defence doctrines and the threats facing each of them.

"In addition, Iran and Russia had held comprehensive talks on continued two-way contacts and exchange of defence delegations as well as meeting each other's educational needs", he further added.

The talks also included Afghanistan and security problems in Central Asia, Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region
"Both sides agreed that foreign intervention would escalate regional tensions and crises,'' Sergeyev commented, referring to US’s push for influence in the region.

Noting Iran-Russian identity of views on Afghanistan, Mr. Pedram said what the two nations could do was to continue supporting both militarily and politically the forces of Ahmad Shah Mas’ud "until the Taleban realises that they could never bring all Afghanistan under their control. Then they may, out of exhaustion, accept to talk seriously with other Afghan factions for the formation of broad-based government".

Touching on the Middle East, the region Mr. Khatami had called on Moscow to play a more active role, Marshal Sergeyev said his President was to launch an "immediate measure" to find a political settlement to the conflict, but did not elaborated.

Arrived in the Iranian capital last Tuesday, Marshal Sergeyev met, beside his Iranian counter part revolutionary guard admiral Ali Shamkhani, President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, the Supreme Council for National Security Secretary Hojjatoleslam Hasan Rohani, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Commander of (regular) Armed Forces Amir Mohammad Salimi.

Before living Esfahan for Moscow on Thursday evening, he visited Iran's Aircraft Industries, affiliated to the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics and the production plant of Simorgh and S-68 aircraft, the 2091 combat helicopters and production lines for the construction of Iran-140 passenger plane in collaboration with Ukraine. ENDS IRAN RUSSIA DEFENCE 291200