Radar to resort - Azerbaijan considers future use for site

BAKU Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:28am IST

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BAKU (Reuters) - A radar site in Azerbaijan for which Russian's lease has expired could be turned into a resort, officials said on Wednesday.

Russia's lease on the Gabala station, originally part of a warning network for the former Soviet Union, ran out on Sunday and the two former Soviet republics could not agree on the rate for a renewal.

Much of the Gabala region, at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, has been designated a resort area, Azeri Defence Ministry spokesman Eldar Sabiroglu said.

"The radar station occupies a large area in the Gabala region," he said, adding that the land "may also be used as a part of this resort".

Moscow has seen its influence fade in Azerbaijan, an oil-producing nation nestled between Russia and Iran on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, as Baku has strengthened its ties with the West.

Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov said a commission overseeing the dismantling of the station would be set up shortly and all equipment would be sent back to Russia.

"I'm not sure that anyone would want make use of this station. No interest has been expressed so far," he told reporters.

Russia says its security will not be compromised by the loss because the area under its surveillance, which includes part of the Indian Ocean, will be covered by other stations.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova and Lada Evgrashina; Writing by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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