U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power says Washington is very concerned about reports of a visit to Russia by Iran's Quds Force chief to Russia in breach of U.N. sanctions. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The United States is very concerned about reports that the head of Iran's elite military Quds Force, who is subject to a United Nations travel ban, recently visited Russia, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Friday. "These are very concerning reports but we are still tracking down the facts," Power told reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria. Qassem Soleimani, chief of the force which is an overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been subject to an international travel ban and asset freeze by the U.N. Security Council since 2007. According to an Iranian official, who declined to be identified, Soleimani had made the trip in the second half of July, where he had held talks covering regional and bilateral issues and the delivery to Iran of S-300 surface-to-air missiles and other weapons. Soleimani had arrived in Moscow on July 24 and met President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu before departing three days later, Fox News reported on Thursday. A Kremlin spokesman denied any meeting between Soleimani and Putin had taken place, RIA news agency reported. However, two U.S. security sources told Reuters the United States believed the meeting between Putin and Soleimani took place. Both Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebels in the country's civil war. Indications of a new diplomatic push to end the war have emerged following last month's signing of an accord on Iran's nuclear programme between Tehran and world powers. Diplomats say Russia and Iran are the prime movers behind the latest push following the July 14 nuclear deal.