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Rafsanjani Meets With Gorbachev

June 20, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ Iranian Parliament speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani met with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev today during an official visit designed to strengthen ties between the nations.

Rafsanjani, also acting commander-in-chief or the armed forces, is the highest-ranking official of the Islamic Republic to visit its northern neighbor since the 1979 Islamic revolution. He also is expected to seek military aid.

He was greeted by Gorbachev on his arrival today at the Grand Kremlin Palace and the two leaders promptly adjourned to the ornate crystal-lit St. Catherine’s Hall for discussions, the official Tass news agency said.

″In the Soviet Union there is confidence that the visit by Rafsanjani will give fresh impetus to the continued progress of Soviet-Iranian relations ... and will help improve mutual understanding and strengthen cooperation between the two countries,″ it said.

Tass said the Soviet Union was intent on developing strong relations with Iran ″despite essential ideological differences between the two countries.″

Relations ″have grown especially strong lately,″ it said, crediting the late Ayatollah Khomeini for the improvement. Khomeini, the fundamentalist leader of Iran’s Islamic revolution, died on June 3.

Before leaving Tehran, Rafsanjani expressed hope that the visit, delayed since last fall, would open ″a new chapter in Iranian-Soviet relations and in the history of the region,″ said the official Islamic Republic News Agency, monitored in Nicosia.

On his return Rafsanjani is to stop in Hungary and Bulgaria to complete 10- year cooperation agreements that include aid to Iran’s growing arms industry.

Rafsanjani was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps Mohsen Rezaie, Minister of Heavy Industries Behzad Nabavi, representatives of seven other ministries and a number of parliamentary deputies, IRNA said.

Mohammad Javad Iravani, minister of economic and financial affairs, preceded him to Moscow to complete the groundwork for signing a number of agreements, IRNA said.

Iran officially has a non-aligned foreign policy, but Rafsanjani said soon after Khomeini died that Iran’s spiritual leader had told him to press ahead with improving ties with Moscow.

With ties to the West still strained, Iran is looking to the Soviet bloc for help in rebuilding Iran following its eight-year war with Iraq.

Relations between the two countries soured soon after the Iranian revolution with the Soviet intervention in neighboring Afghanistan and the 1981 Iranian repression of the Tudeh Communist party.

The Soviet Union was one of Iraq’s major arms suppliers in the Iran-Iraq war that ended in a tentative truce in August.

Iranian-Soviet relations improved with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. In January, Khomeini appealed to Gorbachev to look to Islam for the solution to the Soviet Union’s political and economic stagnation.

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