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Russian-Kazak Deal Criticized

July 9, 1998

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ The presidents of Iran and Turkmenistan on Wednesday criticized a deal between Russia and Kazakstan to divide part of the oil-rich Caspian seabed.

``The seabed and the waters of the sea cannot be divided on a bilateral basis,″ President Separmurat Niyazov said at a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Khatami.

Under the agreement reached Monday, Russia and Kazakstan plan to divide the northern part of the Caspian seabed into separate Russian and Kazak sectors.

Iran and Turkmenistan say that the riches of the Caspian Sea, one of the world’s most promising sources of oil and gas, should be divided equally among the countries bordering it.

``The sea belongs to all the countries of the region and it should be a sea of peace and friendship, with a single legal regime governing its surface and seabed,″ Khatami said.

The two presidents also signed three agreements on cooperation in politics, economics and sports.

Iran has close economic ties with Turkmenistan, its northern neighbor. A gas pipeline inaugurated earlier this year pumps natural gas from Turkmenistan to Iran.

The five Caspian nations _ Kazakstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Russia and Iran _ have been divided for years over who owns the oil in the seabed.

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