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Iran warns Azerbaijan against welcoming any NATO base

TEHRAN, Feb 12 (AFP) - Iran warned neighbouring Azerbaijan on Friday to drop any plans to welcome a NATO base on its territory to counter alleged Russian support for its rival Armenia.

"Azerbaijani officials should know that any NATO base in the Caspian Sea region will be extremely dangerous and constitutes a threat to peace and development," said Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who is now a top aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"NATO and the United States should know that their presence in the region will be a source of tension for themselves and an obstacle to the exploitation of the oil of the Caspian," he told worshippers at weekly prayers.

Last month Azerbaijani officials called on NATO, US or Turkish troops to establish bases in the Caucasian republic to guarantee security against Moscow's military alliance with Baku's arch-rival Armenia.

"Azerbaijan's security finds itself under a great threat, in connection with the massive arms deliveries from Russia to Armenia," Vafa Goulizade, a top foreign policy adviser to President Heydar Aliyev, told AFP.

His remarks drew a strong reaction from Moscow, which said the comments were part of efforts to "aggravate relations between Azerbaijan and Russia."

Azerbaijan has accused Russia in recent weeks of sending MiG-29 fighter jets and S-300 rocket systems to Armenia, which fought a six-year war with Azerbaijan over the mainly Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh located on its territory.


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