TEHRAN (Reuters)–Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Friday warned neighbouring Azerbaijan against hosting US military bases–saying increased military tension in the area could jeopardise oil exploration.
"NATO and the United States should know that their coming is dangerous and it might jeopardize the exploitation of oil in the Caspian Sea," Rafsanjani said in a Friday prayers sermon broadcast on Tehran radio.
Rafsanjani–who now heads a powerful state body and remains a key figure in Iranian politics–said: "The Caspian Sea is our zone of peace–our backyard. How can the Azeris commit such an ugly act?"
Vafa Guluzade–an adviser to Azeri President Haidar Aliyev–said last month that Azerbaijan wanted the United States and Turkey–both NATO members–to establish military bases on its territory to counter what it called Russian threats to its independence.
Aliyev later said Azerbaijan had no immediate plans to host foreign bases but he stopped short of ruling out such a move.
"This great danger has set alarm bells ringing. We hope that the officials of Azerbaijan will review the matter," said Rafsanjani.
"They (Azeris) say the Russia’s have bases in (neighboring) Armenia. Of course–we are against that very much but the difference is that Russia’s have been there for a very long time–since the Soviet era–and now they are packing up," he said. "This is a big difference."
Azerbaijan will consider having a Turkish–US or NATO military base established in the country in order to form a new balance of power in the region–Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiyev said on Thursday.
In an interview with the Obschaya Gazeta newspaper–Abiyev said Azerbaijan wanted to "restore the military-strategic balance broken by Armenia," Interfax reported.