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Unfazed Putin will visit Iran

world Updated: Oct 15, 2007 23:56 IST
Fred Weir
Fred Weir
Hindustan Times
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President Vladimir Putin will go ahead with a state visit to Iran, which officially begins on Tuesday, despite a reported plot to assassinate him using suicide bombers during the trip, Kremlin officials say.

"Of course I am going to Iran," Putin said at a news conference in Wiesbaden, Germany, after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"If I listened to what the security services said, I would never leave my home," Putin said on Monday. "They have to do their work and we, along with the chancellor and our other colleagues, have to do ours."

"According to the schedule, President Putin is arriving (in Tehran) on Monday night. We have no information that he is changing his plans," Kremlin press spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists earlier.

The Kremlin has given out few details of the alleged conspiracy to kill Putin, but Russian news outlets said the plan involved using specially-trained suicide bombers to strike during Tuesday's summit meeting of leaders of Caspian Sea states in Tehran.

Iranian officials dismissed the Russian report of an assassination plot, and suggested it was a rumour designed to prevent Putin from visiting Tehran.

"These reports are part of a psychological war waged by the enemies of Iran to harm Iranian-Russian relations," Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told the Russian RIA-Novosti agency.

At least three previous attempts on Putin's life have come to light in the past, all of them uncovered while he was travelling abroad.

Ukrainian secret services claim to have thwarted an assassination attempt against Putin while he was visiting the Crimean vacation spa of Yalta in 2000. The next year, Chechen militants reportedly tried to kill him during an official trip to Azerbaijan.

Another plot, again involving Chechen-linked Islamist extremists, was exposed in June 2007, while Putin was participating in a Black Sea Economic Cooperation meeting in Turkey.

Putin is the first Russian leader to visit Iran since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin met his wartime allies Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in a Teheran summit in 1943.

He is set to take part in the five-nation summit of Caspian coastal states, which will focus on dividing up the rich petroleum deposits of the Caspian basin between Iran, Russia and three new post-Soviet regional states.

Putin may also discuss Iran's alleged drive to obtain nuclear weapons with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and press upon him a Russian-authored compromise that would enable Iran to use Russian facilities for uranium-enrichment in exchange for giving up its own programme.