Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Iran attacks Caspian oil deal
Tehran is upset over the deal between Russia and Kazakhstan
Iran has protested against an agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan to divide up the northern sector of the oil-rich bed of the Caspian Sea.
The Iranian foreign ministry said the deal signed on Monday was incompatible with the existing legal status of the Caspian and will not be recognised by Tehran.
Tehran radio said the division of the sea's resources among the five states should be based "on the principles of fairness and on the basis of guaranteeing the interest of all countries."
Legal status unresolved
The exploitation of the Caspian's oil reserves - some of the world's largest - has been held up for years by disagreements over the Sea's legal status.
Until recently, Russia favoured joint control of the sea, but its agreement with Kazakhstan divides the northern part into national sectors.
With Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan having made claims to oil-rich areas close to their coasts, Iran is alone among the states insisting the Caspian be shared.
This will effectively open the way for both to develop the energy reserves on their share of the seabed.
Russia still insists the water itself is common property and says fishing and environmental issues can only be managed by the five countries bordering the Caspian working together.
Co-operation on delivery
The deal is believed to include another important provision - that Russia and Kazakhstan will co-operate on oil and gas pipelines, which are crucial to getting the Caspian's huge reserves out of this landlocked part of the world.
A Soviet-era pipeline network currently runs north, through Russia, but several US companies are pressing hard for a southern route to Turkey to prevent Moscow holding them to ransom.
A decision on the main pipeline route is due later this year and will shape the political alliances of the Caspian region for years to come.