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Putin eases ban on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin has eased an export ban on nuclear equipment and technology to Iran. The decree was issued on the day of his first visit to Tehran since 2007.

A decree signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday enables Russian firms to work with Iranian companies on the Fordo enrichment site and help Tehran modernize its heavy water reactor in Arak.

The Kremlin decree eases an export ban on nuclear equipment and technology to Iran, authorizing Russian firms to export hardware and to provide financial and technical advice to Iran.

On Monday, Putin arrived in Tehran for talks with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) and President Hassan Rouhani.

The Russian head of state is attending the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit. Opening the summit on Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country "is ready to play a bigger role in the supply of gas" in a speech broadcast live on Iranian state television. He added that Iran welcomed international partnerships to develop its supplies.

Putin told the gas conference on Monday that future consumers of natural gas should share investment risks related to capital expenditures in the sector with producers. He also said that Russia plans to increase gas sales to Asia significantly.

In July, Tehran agreed to scale back its nuclear program as part of a deal with world powers.

Russian companies are eyeing business opportunities after sanctions on Iran will be lifted. This is expected to happen in the next two months, as the nuclear deal reaches its "implementation" stage.

Putin's visit comes as Russia, the United States, France and other countries are talking about possible joint action against the so-called "Islamic State" following the terror attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian plane in Egypt.

Moscow and Tehran have been key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the civil war which has killed more than 250,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

Russian news agency Interfax cited a Kremlin spokesperson on Monday as saying that Putin and Iran's Khamenei agreed political decisions should not be imposed on Syria from outside.

Russia started an air campaign against the "Islamic State" and other insurgents in Syria on September 30, while Tehran sent military advisers to support Assad.

das/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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