Iran, North Korea seek to boost cooperation

TEHRAN (Reuters) –

Iran and

North Korea have agreed to step up bilateral contacts, an Iranian news agency said on Friday, signaling closer ties between two countries which were part of U.S.

President George W. Bush‘s “axis of evil.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government “is interested in expanding ties with North Korea in the political, economical and cultural fields,” Mottaki was quoted as saying.

“Therefore it is necessary to remove some barriers to provide and recognize new fields of cooperation,” he said, suggesting North Korea’s debt to Iran was one such barrier without giving details.

Under Thursday’ accord, the foreign ministries of the two countries would every year send delegations to each other to “exchange ideas” over different international issues.

Bush branded the two countries as well as

Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” after he took office in 2001.

Since then, Iran has defied Western pressure to suspend its nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at making atom bombs, a charge Tehran denies.

North Korea drew international condemnation when it conducted its first nuclear test in October, but agreed in February this year to shut its nuclear facilities in return for energy aid.

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