September 23, 2005

US to fund Azerbaijan radar stations: embassy

BAKU (Reuters) - The United States is to help its Caspian
Sea ally Azerbaijan build a radar station on its border with
Iran and another near Russia, a U.S. embassy official said on

The Pentagon has said its aid is to help Azerbaijan's navy
protect offshore oil deposits and to combat terrorism. Iran has
been angered by U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan in the

"The United States has provided funds for the construction
of radar stations in Astara, on the border with Iran, and in
the southern Greater Caucasus mountains, on the border with
Russia," said the embassy official.

The official gave no details on what purpose the radar
stations would serve or the size of the U.S. aid.

Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan and Iran dispute ownership over the
South-West corner of the Caspian Sea, which is adjacent to
Astara and believed to contain oil and gas deposits.

An Iranian warship in 2001 threatened to fire on an Azeri
ship surveying the sea bed for oil company BP.

The Iranian embassy in Baku declined to comment on the U.S.
aid. A spokesman for the Russian defense ministry in Moscow
said: "This is a matter for Azerbaijan and the United States."

The U.S. has given Azerbaijan several coastguard vessels
and held joint exercises in the Caspian with the Azeri
coastguard and navy.

Russia leases a massive, long-range radar station in
northern Azerbaijan, which was built under Soviet rule.

The Azeri town of Astara is on the Caspian coast, right
next to the Iranian border. There is a town of the same name on
the Iranian side of the frontier.

(Additional reporting by Natalya Borisova in Moscow)