Iran Recalls Ambassador to Azerbaijan to Protest Peres Visit

Iran recalled its ambassador to Azerbaijan for consultations yesterday, a day after President Shimon Peres visited the central Asian country.

According to the Iranian news agency INSA, the envoy was recalled due to both Peres' visit and unspecified "threats" it said Israel's ambassador in Baku had voiced against Iran. The semi-official Fars News Agency carried a similar report.

Two weeks ago, the Iranian chief of staff visited Azerbaijan in an effort to forestall the visit, informing Baku in no uncertain terms that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted it called off. Iran also pressured Azerbaijan to cancel the visit via other diplomatic channels.

However, the Azeris flatly refused. Baku never tried to interfere with Tehran's ties to Armenia, despite the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Azeris said, so they expected Tehran to similarly refrain from interfering with their ties with Israel.

Today, Peres will be in Kazakhstan for a meeting with that country's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The President's Residence said he will not raise the issue of an Israeli jailed in Kazakhstan during this meeting. However, a government source said, it will be raised by Pini Avivi, a senior Foreign Ministry official accompanying Peres, during his talks with Kazakhstani Foreign Ministry personnel.

Boris Shinkman, 62, was arrested by Kazakhstan's secret service three months ago on suspicion of bribing senior defense officials in order to promote deals with Israeli defense firms. Several Kazakhstani defense officials were also arrested, on suspicion of taking bribes from Israeli firms.

The President's Residence said Peres told Shinkman's family that the foreign and justice ministries are dealing with the matter via the usual channels.