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Iran To Lift Visa Regime For Azerbaijanis

BAKU -- Iran plans to unilaterally cancel its visa regime with Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mammad Bagir Bahrami told a press conference in Baku today that any Azerbaijani citizen will be able to travel to Iran without a visa and stay there for one month.

"If necessary, Azerbaijanis may return home and then come back to Iran," he said.

Bahrami said the new procedure will take effect on January 1.

He said that if the change proves successful, the Iranian side may prolong to three months the period that Azerbaijanis may spend in Iran without a visa.

Bahrami said he hopes Azerbaijan will reciprocate and lift the existing visa requirement for Iranians who wish to travel to Azerbaijan.

However, Baku may decide not to do so, as it fears a mass influx of Iranian citizens.

According to unofficial estimates, up to 25 percent of Iran's population of 70 million are ethnic Azeris.

They constitute a majority in the northwestern provinces of East and West Azerbaijan, which border the republic of Azerbaijan.