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Cablegate: Belarus Cozies Up to Iran

VZCZCXYZ0012
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSK #1324/01 3040845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310845Z OCT 05
FM AMEMBASSY MINSK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3248
INFO RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS 3404
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 3189
RUEHRA/AMEMBASSY RIGA 1447
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 3068
RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KIEV 2973
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 0722
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS MINSK 001324

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/UMB AND NEA/ARPI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ETRD BO IR
SUBJECT: Belarus Cozies Up to Iran

Ref: Minsk 337

1. (SBU) Summary: In recent months Belarus and Iran have
greatly increased their contacts and friendly rhetoric,
including an invitation for Belarusians to work on the
Iranian nuclear program and improve trade ties. Belarusian
factories are being founded in Iran, and Iranian
businessmen are searching Belarus for investment
opportunities. To top off this growing friendship, the
Speaker of the Iranian Parliament is expected in Minsk in
December. End summary.


Iran Invites Belarusian Nuclear Scientists
------------------------------------------

2. (U) On October 11, Iran's Ambassador to Belarus
Abdulhamid Fekri told reporters Iran invited Belarusian
scientists to work on Iran's nuclear program. He did not
say if any concrete offers were made. Fekri naturally
stressed that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, and only
faces problems internationally because the U.S. wants to
control Iranian oil. He added that Belarus would come
under similar pressure if it goes ahead with plans to build
a nuclear power plant (reftel). Fekri also thanked Belarus
for its unwavering international support.

3. (U) On September 19 in New York, Foreign Minister Sergey
Martynov told Iran's FM that, "Belarus fully recognizes and
supports Iran's right to develop and use peaceful nuclear
technologies, provided the country observe the non-
proliferation regime." According to the press, during the
meeting the two agreed to further develop relations at the
highest level, increase cooperation on the international
scene, and boost bilateral trade.


Increasing Commercial Ties
--------------------------

4. (SBU) In the past several months Belarus and Iran have
vastly increased their commercial ties. On October 12
Belarus' MFA announced Iran had agreed to buy 500 tractors
from the Minsk Tractor Plant (MTZ). [Note: "tractors" here
means unspecified road and farm machinery.] On the same
day Iranian Ambassador Fekri said Belarus and Iran had
agreed to build an assembly plant for the Minsk Tractor
Plant in Busher, and to build an assembly plant for
tractor-mounted agricultural equipment in Shiraz. [Note:
the Minsk Tractor Plant produces tractors, road equipment,
and heavy off-road capable equipment. Much of this is dual
purpose.] In June 2004 MAZ created a joint venture,
MAZIRAN, that in its first year assembled 130 MAZ trucks in
Iran, worth USD 15 million. The Belarusian Embassy in
Tehran manages a network of repair centers for Belarusian
vehicles, and reportedly opened a maintenance and storage
center in a Tehran industrial area.

5. (SBU) In late July, representatives of Iran's Khodro
carmaker visited Minsk. With the aid of Vladimir Konoplev,
speaker of the lower house of parliament, Khodro announced
plans to start producing cars in Belarus. Khodro plans to
work with Belarusian company Unison (managed by Konoplev
aide Aleksey Vaganov) to produce 2,000 cars a year to
start, with growth of up to 30,000 vehicles annually. In
September, Iranian businessmen visited Minsk to investigate
the possibility of producing Samant cars in Belarus as
well.

6. (U) Iran's Keyson company has agreed to build a USD
113.05 million transport service complex near Minsk on the
BrestQMoscow highway. The first stage, worth USD 50
million, is scheduled to be complete by 2013 and will
include a motel and service areas for trucks. Another
unnamed Iranian company is reportedly building a USD 6
million office and commercial center in Minsk. Iranian
businessmen have reportedly come to Minsk to investigate
investing in woodworking, additional construction projects,
and the purchase of potassium fertilizers.
7. (U) Belarusian exports for 2004 rose 62.5 percent to USD
33.3 million, according to the GOB. Belarus mainly exports
truck tractors, road and construction equipment, and dump
trucks. It also exported lesser amounts of acrylic fibers,
potassium fertilizers and tire-cord fiber. Iran is
believed to have exported USD 3.4 million worth of goods to
Belarus in 2004, although it is unclear what those goods
were.

Loving Rhetoric
---------------

8. (U) Both sides have engaged in recent months with public
exhortations of friendship. Speaking to a group of Iranian
politicians and businessmen in Minsk on September 14,
Konoplev said, "We have met with our Iranian friends more
often recently." On August 31, chairman of the Iranian
legislature Gholam Ali Hadda Adel stated to the Belarusian
Ambassador, "Iran and Belarus adhere to similar stances on
many international problems: Tehran and Minsk are both
concerned about NATO's eastward enlargement, are interested
in the creation of a nuclear free zone, and support efforts
to combat international terrorism." Ambassador Leonid
Rachkov replied, "The West seeks to dominate the world,"
therefore Belarus-Iranian cooperation was "increasingly
more important geopolitically."

9. (U) Iranian Ambassador Fekri told reporters in July that
ever since President Mohammed Khatami visited Minsk in
September 2004, "relations were developing every day and
every hour."

10. (U) In May the Belarusian parliament ratified an
agreement on administrative assistance and customs
cooperation with Iran. It also ratified a security
agreement aimed at combating smuggling of historic and
cultural goods, arms and ammunition, explosives, fighting
money laundering, trafficking in people, cyber crime, and
"crimes against the national security of the state."


And Both Want to Increase Scientific Cooperation
--------------------------------------------- ---

11. (U) According to the press, on October 22 Belarusian
Ambassador to Tehran Leonid Rachkov told Iran's Minister of
Science, Research and Technology Mohammed-Mehdi Zahedi that
Belarus would like to increase scientific cooperation with
Iran. He specifically mentioned increasing bilateral
relations on information technology, power generation,
environmental protection, and medical engineering. Rachkov
also called for increasing academic exchanges, conducting
joint research, and invited Zahedi to Belarus "to sign
joint agreements."


Visits/meetings
---------------

12. (U) Lukashenko spent less than a day in New York at the
UNGA, and only managed a handful of meetings. However, he
did find time to meet with Iranian President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad to discuss "trade, economic and political
cooperation." [Note: Lukashenko also met with the Iraqi
and Moldovan presidents, and the head of the CIS.]

13. (U) To facilitate travel, in July Iran began offering
Belarusians free visas upon arrival in Tehran, Esfahan,
Tabriz and Mashad. The Iranian Ambassador to Minsk is also
reportedly trying to establish a direct air link between
Minsk and Tehran.

14. (U) A surprising number of Iranian delegations travel
to Minsk [Note: contacts report they travel by air through
Kiev.] In September, delegations included the heads of the
commissions for agriculture, water, natural resources, and
mining of the Assembly of the Islamic Council, as well as
businessmen from an Iranian tractor plant. In June,
Iranian businessmen visited Gomel Oblast, where they are
considering starting a woodworking business and investing
in the Oktyabrsky Dried Fat-Free Milk Plant. The Speaker
of the Iranian parliament is scheduled to visit Minsk in
December.


Birds of a Feather
------------------

15. (SBU) Comment: With Minsk and Teheran generally
isolated internationally, it is little surprise they are
cozying up to each other, even despite their complete lack
of historical cultural ties. In a similar vein Lukashenko
recently hosted the Venezualan Foreign Minister, and has
reached out to other pariahs, such as Syria and Cuba. With
his access to the First World restricted by his own
policies, Lukashenko is seeking friends who are not so
choosy.

KROL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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