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Russia’s Nuclear Deal with Iran Broached During Visit to Israel

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev has said Russia’s nuclear relationship with iran should not be a source of concern to the Jewish state since it will be conducted under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kozyrev offered this assurance to reporters on Sunday after holding meetings here with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Ezer Weizman.

At both meetings, the Israeli leaders were understood to have voiced misgivings over Russia’s recently declared intent to supply nuclear reactors to Iran.

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry also raised U.S. objections to the deal during a visit to Russia this week.

By referring to the international controls, Kozyrev appeared to be at least obliquely criticizing Israel’s refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept the atomic energy agency’s supervision over its own nuclear facilities.

The nuclear issue has put a strain on Israel’s relations with Egypt, which has refused to sign the 25-year-old treaty when it comes up for renewal later this month unless Israel does so as well.

The NPT was high on the agenda of discussions held this week in Washington between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and top American officials.

The nuclear issue also came up during Rabin’s meeting with kozyrev on Sunday.

Asked by Kozyrev to explain israel’s position in the NPT, Rabin repeated his stance that Israel would not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the region. He added that his government will support regional nuclear disarmament once Israel reaches peace agreements with all countries in the region.

Kozyrev’s visit to israel came as part of a wider trip to the Middle East that began last week with visits to Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

On Saturday, after visiting Bethelehem and eastern Jerusalem, Kozyrev met with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in the Gaza Strip.

In a gesture of support, Kozyrev told Arafat that Russia would provide the Palestinian Authority with 45 jeeps and armored cars.

Before his trip to the Middle East began, kozyrev appeared to encourage speculation that he was coming with new ideas for quickening the pace of the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.

There was even talk of his conveying a “personal message” from Syrian President Hafez Assad to Rabin.

But in Jerusalem on Sunday, well-placed officials said they found it hard to point to any such major developments coming as a result of Kozyrev’s trip.

The main purpose of the trip, they said, was for Kozyrev to reaffirm Russia’s interest in maintaining its role as a joint sponsor, along with the United States, of the Middle East peace process launched in Madrid in 1991.

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