A senior Iranian minister arrives in the Soviet Union today (June 16) for economic talks that take on added importance in light of the West's trade sanctions against Iran.
Economy and Finance Minister Reza Salimi is heading a delegation to a regular five-day session of the joint economic commission set up under the deposed Shah. He is expected to meet Semyon Skachkov, chairman of the State Committee for External Economic Relations and architect of the Kremlin's foreign aid program.
The Soviets will clearly be looking to the talks to increase their influence in Tehran after the decision by the United States -- followed by the European Common Market countries -- to start sanctions against Iran over the seven-month holding of the American embassy hostages.
Freight across the border accounts for a large part of Iran's trade with East and West Europe, and Moscow has indicated that if the sanctions begin to bite, the East bloc will be prepared to come to the rescue.
Iranian sources say the talks will cover all aspects of Tehran's economic links with its northern neighbor, particularly a trade boost and the vexed question of Iran's stalled exports of natural gas across the border.