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Iranian Defense Minister To Visit Azerbaijan

Defense Minister Major General Ahmad Vahidi

Defense Minister Major General Ahmad Vahidi

BAKU -- Iranian Defense Minister Major General Ahmad Vahidi will visit Azerbaijan next week at the invitation of his Azerbaijani counterpart, Colonel General Safar Abiyev, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced on October 1 that defense and regional security would be discussed during the visit, scheduled for October 11.

Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mohammad Bagir Bahrami, told the semi-official Fars news agency that the purpose of the visit "is to expand bilateral ties in the defense sphere."

But military expert Uzeyir Cafarli says that the upcoming visit is "noteworthy" and "not a routine one." He says Iran is one of the leading countries in the region and that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to bilateral military cooperation.

Cafarli also predicts that Vahidi will convey to his Azerbaijani counterpart Tehran's concern at the possibility that Azerbaijan will sign a new agreement allowing Russia to continue to use the Qabala radar station.

Iran and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on technical cooperation during a previous visit by Vahidi to Baku in 2006. The two countries do not have any extensive military cooperation.

Ethnic Azeris are estimated to make up about 15-25 percent of Iran's population of some 74 million people.