Belarus Lukashenko Wants Closer Ties With Iran


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday Iran was a significant source of support for his country outside of the former Soviet republics, RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Iran has been at the center of an international dispute over the past year regarding its nuclear ambitions. Some countries suspect the Islamic Republic of pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program, but Tehran has consistently denied the claims, saying it needs nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

Lukashenko's domestic policies have also come under severe criticism from the West, with Washington dubbing him "Europe's last dictator," and both the U.S. and the EU banning him from entering their territories.

"[Belarusian] foreign policy has developed good relations with your neighbors, but we need to form an outside arc of good cooperation with such important states as Venezuela, South Africa, Iran and Malaysia," Lukashenko said at a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who is in Belarus on a two-day official visit.

"We consider Iran as a serious point of support abroad, and we want to actively develop relations with it," Lukashenko said.

The president also asked the Iranian minister to work out with his Belarusian counterpart issues for the presidents on the intensification of bilateral relations.

Mottaki replied that the foreign ministers of two countries have a very simple task, since the positions of the Belarusian and Iranian presidents are the same and are aimed at developing bilateral relations.

"The efforts of such powerful countries as Belarus in Europe and Iran in the Middle East can bring peace to these regions," Mottaki said.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said Iran is studying ways to implement a number of major investment projects in Belarus. In particular, one of Iran's largest construction companies is interested in building hotels and residential buildings, as well as to form a transportation terminal in Belarus.