BEIRUT

Middle East

Azerbaijan will not allow Iran attack - minister

DUBAI: Azerbaijan will not allow other countries to use its territory to launch an attack on neighbouring Iran, Iranian media reported Azerbaijan's Defence Minister Safar Abiyev as saying on Monday.

The former Soviet republic, which borders Iran, has friendly ties with the United States and Israel and has experienced increasing tension with Tehran in recent months.

Last month, the Islamic Republic accused Azerbaijan of assisting Israeli intelligence in the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who was killed when a bomb was attached to his car.

"We will not allow Azerbaijan's soil to be used against Iran under any conditions," Abiyev was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying after meeting his Iranian counter Ahmad Vahidi in Tehran.

"We want regional security and peace and believe strengthening military ties between the two countries will guarantee that," he said.

At least four scientists associated with Iran's nuclear programme have been assassinated since 2010 and a fifth was wounded in a bomb attack. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Ahmadi-Roshan's killing a "cowardly act" and accused the United States and Israel of responsibility.

Relations between the two countries worsened in January after Azerbaijan arrested two men suspected of plotting to attack foreigners, including the Israeli ambassador in Baku and a rabbi. Authorities said the two suspects had been helped by an Iranian linked to Iran's intelligence services, who supplied them with guns and explosives to smuggle from Iran.

Azeri authorities have also said they thwarted a plan by agents of Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia to set off a car bomb near the Israeli embassy four years ago, and a plot targeting the U.S. and British embassies in 2007.

Tehran has eyed its neighbour with increasing suspicion because of its growing trade links with Israel. Israel signed a multi-billion-dollar agreement with Azerbaijan last month to supply missile defence hardware and imports more than a quarter of its oil needs from the country.

 
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