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Iranian, Tajik Leaders Tout Bilateral Ties --> Tajik President Rakhmonov (left) with Iranian President Ahmadinejad in Tehran on 17 January (epa) 17 January 2006 -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said ahead of a meeting today with visiting Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov that Iran and Tajikistan are "one spirit in two bodies."

Rakhmonov described cooperation between the two countries as "excellent," and praised their increasing economic, cultural, and political relations in recent years.

During his two-day visit, Rakhmonov is also expected to meet with the speaker of the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel; Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki; and former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who now heads Iran's top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council.

Rakhmonov had said before departing for Tehran that his official visit is of an "exclusively economic character." Topics were expected to include investment and foreign debt, joint tunnel and highway projects, and the energy sector.

ITAR-TASS quoted Rakhmonov as saying the Tajik side "hopes to sign an agreement on Iranian participation in the construction of the Sangtudinskaya-II hydroelectric power plant."

(IRNA, Asia Plus, ITAR-TASS)