Belarus vows cooperation with Iran 'in all areas'
( AFP ) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko promised Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cooperation "in all areas" at the start of talks between the two diplomatically isolated leaders Monday.
" Belarus and Iran are subjects of international law. There are no forbidden topics for Belarus and Iran. We are ready to cooperate in all areas," Lukashenko said in televised comments.
The two-day visit was meant to strengthen personal ties, as well as build on a raft of new trade agreements the two signed at a meeting in Tehran in November.
"We are full of determination to carry out all the agreements we reached in Tehran and will reach in Minsk," Ahmadinejad told the Belarussian president, whom he praised as "one of my very best friends."
Lukashenko has been a vocal supporter of Iran's controversial nuclear program, while Ahmadinejad has praised the Belarussian president, condemned by Washington as "the last dictator in Europe."
Belarus has also sold Russian-made conventional military equipment and spare parts to Iran in the face of Western criticism.
The two presidents held talks expected to focus on energy, trade and technology, after which Ahmadinejad was due to visit Belarussian manufacturing facilities.
Bilateral trade stood at 35.6 million dollars (26.5 million euros) in 2006, according to the Belarussian foreign ministry, though the two countries hope new deals in the oil sector and car and tractor industries will lift this to 350 million dollars.
"We have enormous long-term potential, which we should fulfill," Ahmadinejad said.
Both governments have been the target of sharp criticism by the West: Iran over suspicions about its nuclear programme, Belarus over human rights abuses.
The two countries' defence ministers signed an agreement in Tehran in January to intensify military links.