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Turkmenistan: Putin, Khatami Meet On Sidelines Of Summit

Ashgabat, 24 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat today before the Caspian summit resumed. The meeting was closed to the public, but the ITAR-TASS news agency reported that Putin and Khatami urged greater cooperation in the region and worldwide to fight terrorism.

The agency said Putin praised Iran for its contribution to the campaign against terrorism. The U.S. has accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism. Putin also said Russia's relations with Iran have strengthened, and he said Russia decided to participate in the Caspian summit after he talked to the Iranian leader during Khatami's recent visit to Moscow.

The presidents of the five countries bordering the Caspian Sea are due today to continue summit talks on how to divide the sea and share its vast oil and gas resources. The presidents of Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan are expected to sign a joint declaration and hold a press conference on the final day of their meeting in Ashgabat.

President Putin described the first day of the summit as positive. Putin said he believed the gathering could produce what he called "unexpected" results. He gave no further details.

Earlier, President Khatami called for the halt of "all activities" on the Caspian pending a decision on the sea's future. Iran has been seeking to split the Caspian equally among the five littoral countries. But Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan want it divided into national sectors that correspond to the length of each country's shoreline.