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. Iranian parliament speaker holds talks in Moscow
MOSCOW (AFP) Dec 12, 2005
The speaker of Iran's parliament held talks in Moscow on Monday seen by Russian media as a quest for support in the face of international pressure over Tehran's nuclear programme.

"I'm very glad to be in Russia and to meet you," said the speaker, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, as he began talks with Russian counterpart Boris Gryzlov.

The Iranian speaker was also due to meet the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexis II.

The Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper said the visit was aimed at winning support before Iran holds key negotiations later this month with Britain, France and Germany over its controversial nuclear programme.

Moscow recently put forward a proposal for ending the stand-off over Iran's nuclear ambitions, by which Russia would enrich uranium for Tehran on Russian territory, an offer Tehran has yet to take up.

"As soon as there is a smell of burning, Iran's leaders rush to Moscow for support," Rossiiskaya Gazeta said.

The newspaper questioned the wisdom of such ties in the light of a recent call by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

"Probably only Moscow is willing to welcome a parliamentary delegation from a country whose president has publicly called for the destruction of another state and to negotiate weapons supplies to that state.... Couldn't such friendship be too costly for Russia's image?" the paper said.

Russia is currently helping Iran build the Bushehr nuclear power plant and earlier this month signed an agreement on supplying Tehran with sophisticated TOR M1 mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems.

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