Thursday, August 07, 2008

India Says $1 Billion Helicopter Deal To Be Signed With Russia Soon

India Says $1 Billion Helicopter Deal To Be Signed With Russia Soon (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, August 7, 2008 - The Indian Air Force said on Thursday that India will soon sign a contract with Russia to receive 80 Mi-17 Hip-H multirole helicopters. Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said preparations for signing the contract are now in their final stages. The deal is estimated at $1 billion. Indian media earlier reported that the contract was under threat over Russia's attempt to significantly raise the delivery price, and that negotiations were stalling. A preliminary agreement to sell Mi-17 helicopters to India was reached in March 2007 at a meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military cooperation. The Mi-17 is a version of the Mi-8 airframe. The helicopter has a takeoff weight of 13 metric tons and can carry up to 36 people or a payload of 4 metric tons within the cargo compartment, or 4.5 tons externally. The helicopters have been supplied to 80 countries.

Russia May Put Bombers And Missiles In Belarus

Russia May Put Bombers And Missiles In Belarus (NSI News Source Info) Minsk Aug 7, 2008: Russia could base bombers and missiles in neighbouring Belarus in response to US missile defence plans in Eastern Europe, Moscow's ambassador to Minsk said Wednesday, Russian news agencies reported. "We could be talking about the possible basing of Iskander missiles, the possible basing of strategic bombers in Belarus, Kaliningrad and so on," the ambassador, Alexander Surikov, was quoted by Interfax as saying. "When Poland signs the agreement with the American side about hosting elements of the missile defence system, then we can discuss some additional aspects of military-technical cooperation with Belarus," Surikov said. "We will counter the deployment of (a) missile defence system in Poland. We have to judge the situation. We will counter the way we have to. But this excludes the return of nuclear weapons to Belarus," he added. Russia has vowed a firm response to US plans to base interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of a defence system that Washington says is aimed at countering a missile threat from Iran. Russian officials and military top brass say the US missile system is based too close to its borders and is in fact aimed at undermining Russia's nuclear deterrent, but they have so far not detailed what the response will be.

Boeing, Azerbaijan Airlines Announce Order for 737s and 767s

Boeing, Azerbaijan Airlines Announce Order for 737s and 767s (NSI News Source Info) SEATTLE, Aug. 07, 2008 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] and Azerbaijan Airlines have finalized an order for two Boeing Next-Generation 737-900ERs and two 767-300ERs. The order is valued at $449 million at list prices. One of the 767s is a substitution for a previously ordered 787, as reflected today on Boeing's Orders and Deliveries Web site. Including today's announcement, Azerbaijan Airlines has a total of eight Boeing airplanes on order: four 737-900ERs, two 787-8s and two 767-300ERs. Azerbaijan Airlines, based in Baku, is the national airline of Azerbaijan. "We are eager to build our Boeing fleet with these additional 737s and 767s to meet continued demand for air travel in our region," said Jahangir Askerov, president of Azerbaijan Airlines. "Today's order is yet another step forward in our strong relationship with Boeing. We look forward to operating the 787 and benefiting from its advanced performance features, however the 767-300ER is the economical and logical choice to fulfill our interim capacity targets." The 737-900ER is Boeing's newest addition to the popular line of 737 single-aisle airplanes. Boeing launched the 737-900ER in 2005 as a higher-capacity, longer-range complement to the 737 family. The 737-900ER is the largest member of the 737 airplane family. It seats up to 215 passengers and flies up to 3,200 nautical miles (5,900 kilometers), making the range comparable to the 737-800. Azerbaijan Airlines' 737-900ERs will feature Blended Winglets, which enable a three to four percent improvement in fuel efficiency and a comparable reduction in emissions. The 737-900ER shares the same performance attributes as other models of the Next-Generation 737 family (737-600, 737-700 and 737-800) such as reliability, lower maintenance costs, lower operating costs and state-of-the-art flight deck systems such as Head-Up Display (HUD), Global Positioning Landing System and Vertical Situation Display. Boeing continuously evaluates and incorporates value-added technologies and design innovations to improve the 737's performance and capabilities. Boeing has orders for more than 4,900 Next-Generation 737s, with more than 2,200 unfilled orders remaining, valued at more than $160 billion at current list prices. The 767-300ER is one of three passenger models in the 767 family, which includes the 767-200ER and 767-400ER, and is the baseline for the 767-300ER freighter. The 767-300ER seats up to 350 passengers and flies up to 5,975 nautical miles (11,065 kilometers). Boeing has orders for more than 1,000 767s, including 540 767-300ERs. The twin-engine 767 -- sized between the single-aisle 757 and the larger, twin-aisle 777 -- has built a reputation among airlines for its profitability and comfort. Schedule reliability -- an industry measure of departure from the gate within 15 minutes of scheduled departure -- is more than 98 percent for the 767.

Boeing, British Airways, GECAS Finalize Deal for up to 10 777-300ERs

Boeing, British Airways, GECAS Finalize Deal for up to 10 777-300ERs (NSI News Source Info) SEATTLE, Aug. 07, 2008 -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] and British Airways have signed an order for two Boeing 777-300ER jetliners valued at $529 million at list prices. Boeing also announced that GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS) has purchased two 777-300ERs, airplanes that were previously listed as an unidentified order on the Boeing Web site. The airplanes are two of four 777s that BA has agreed to lease from GECAS – including two 777s ordered in 2007 – as part of its recent commitment to the 777-300ER. British Airways also secured options for four additional 777-300ERs directly with Boeing. "Boeing and British Airways have a relationship that stretches back over the last 50 years and this order is a reaffirmation of this ongoing partnership," said Marlin Dailey, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of Sales for Europe, Russia and Central Asia. "The 777-300ER offers exceptional fuel economy and environmental credentials and will integrate seamlessly into British Airways' existing twin-aisle fleet. "In addition, our key partner GECAS continues to demonstrate confidence in the 777. With the 777s GECAS has ordered in the last two years, it has created five new 777 customers. Three of the five new customers have subsequently purchased new 777s directly from Boeing," Dailey said. The two airplanes GECAS ordered are valued at $529 million at catalog prices and raise to 25 the number of 777s (Freighters and 777-300ERs) that GECAS has purchased since November 2006. The 25 airplanes have been placed on long-term lease with six different carriers, including British Airways. With its advanced materials and design, the 777-300ER is 18 percent lighter than its closest competitor. It consumes 20 percent less fuel per seat and costs 16 percent less to operate. The 777 family is one of the most reliable twin-aisle commercial airplanes flying today. The 777's unique combination of optimal size, range, fuel efficiency and passenger comfort has made it the most successful airplane in its category. The 777 has accumulated 1,090 orders worldwide from 56 different airlines and leasing companies. Boeing currently has more than 350 unfilled orders for the 777 worth in excess of $91 billion at current list prices.

Forecast International Projects $30-plus Billion Military Satellite Market

Forecast International Projects $30-plus Billion Military Satellite Market (NSI News Source Info) August 7, 2008: NEWTOWN, Conn. - Forecast International is projecting that over the next decade, defense departments worldwide will invest some $30.6 billion on approximately 95 military satellites. The satellites to be developed and procured with this funding will range in size from large military satcoms such as the Wideband Global Satcom and Advanced EHF to the relatively small ELISA electronic intelligence satellite. These are among the findings of FI’s recent analysis, “The Market for Military Satellites.” The report maintains that the U.S. military satellite market will continue to remain in sharp contrast to European markets during the decade. This dominance will be based on the vast financial requirements anticipated for the transformational process, in addition to the high-priority reconnaissance and defense programs under way within the United States. At the same time, Forecast International expects that the ongoing trend of consolidation of European nations’ satellite efforts, combined with increased military use of civil remote-sensing systems, will limit production opportunities in that region. The analysis projects that military satellite production in Europe, Japan and Israel will account for 27 spacecraft representing approximately 28.4 percent of the market covered in the report. In terms of value, production in those regions is expected to be worth $5.2 billion, or approximately 17 percent of market share. Among notable indicators, in the United States, over $5 billion in military satellite production scheduled for the forecast period has yet to be contracted. In addition, the massive GPS and Transformational Communications programs currently under way in the United States will provide a comparatively cushy fiscal pillow for local manufac¬turers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman to fall back on during the current commercial downturn. “In terms of unit production within the United States, Lockheed Martin outpaces its competitors as the number one military satellite manufacturer in the world over the next 10 years,” said John Edwards, Forecast International senior analyst and author of the study. Lockheed Martin is building the Advanced EHF constellation GPS III, the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System, and the SBIRS High system. The United States enjoys an advantage in the military space arena second to none, according to the report, and accounts for nearly 90 percent of global military space spending. “This lack of balance in the world military satellite inventory and in military space capabilities as a whole is driving this dynamic market, and therefore the militarization of space will continue to be a vigorous and lucrative market.” Edwards said. Unlike the market for commercial systems, military markets are less exposed to risk when it comes to the ebb and tide of the consumer, which in this case is the military itself. “Therefore, manufacturers of these systems – especially in the United States – can look forward to a strong military satellite market over the next decade,” said Edwards. Forecast International, Inc. is a leading provider of Market Intelligence and Analysis in the areas of aerospace, defense, power systems and military electronics. Based in Newtown, Conn., USA, Forecast International specializes in long-range industry forecasts and market assessments used by strategic planners, marketing professionals, military organizations, and governments worldwide.

Pentagon Issues Draft Request for Proposals for New Tanker Contract

Pentagon Issues Draft Request for Proposals for New Tanker Contract (NSI News Source Info) Source: US Department of Defense; Aug. 7, 2008: WASHINGTON - The Defense Department has issued a draft request for proposals to the competitors in the Air Force’s $35 billion program to acquire new aerial refueling tanker aircraft. The request went to Northrop-Grumman and Boeing, and addresses concerns the Government Accountability Office raised about the original award of the contract in February, said Shay Assad, the Defense Department’s director of procurement and acquisitions policy. Assad spoke during a Pentagon news conference today. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, recommended that the Air Force re-bid the contract – originally won by a Northrop-Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium in February. Boeing protested the decision, and in June the GAO agreed that there were irregularities in the contracting process. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said DoD would address each of the GAO's findings “We are doing that, and we are addressing them in a very measured and serious way to ensure that we, in fact, can execute this procurement in a manner that's fair to both parties and is in the best interests of the warfighters and the taxpayers,” Assad said. DoD officials will take a week to discuss elements of the draft with Northrop-Grumman and Boeing. “Each offeror will be provided an equal amount of time to sit down and discuss face-to-face what their views are of the draft RFP,” Assad said. By the middle of August, Assad said, he expects DoD will issue the final request for proposals amendment. Both companies will have 45 days to submit their revisions to their proposals. This takes the process out to Oct. 1, Assad said. Through late November, DoD officials will have discussions – both oral and written – with the companies about their proposals. “We would then hope to close discussions around the end of November [or] early December, request a best and final offer -- or what we now term final proposal revisions -- in the first week in December, and complete our evaluations and award right around New Year's Eve,” Assad said. Assad said the process is on track now and the department needs to finish this contract so warfighters can get “what they need at a price that the taxpayers can be pleased with.” The Northrop-Grumman contract awarded in February is under a stop-work order. If the department chooses Boeing as part of this process, then DoD will cancel the contract with Northrop-Grumman. If the new process still chooses Northrop-Grumman, then the stop-work order can be lifted and work can proceed, officials said.

The USMC’s H-1 Helicopter Program

The USMC’s H-1 Helicopter Program
(NSI News Source Info) August 7, 2008: The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging on all levels, from CH-46 Sea Knights far older than their pilots to the 1980s era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the V-22 program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required. Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture 100 of the Marines’ old UH-1N Hueys and 180 of its AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters into advanced variants. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. At least, that was the idea. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, and the H-1 program has encountered its own share of delays and issues. Nevertheless, the program survived a recent review, and continues on into the low-rate initial production stage and OpEval Phase II. This is DID’s FOCUS Article regarding the H-1 program; it will be updated and backfilled as events and opportunity dictate. Recent developments include just under $20 million in testing and support related contracts.


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS BIDS FAREWELL TO AN IRAQI ARMY GENERAL AFTER COMPLETING A TOUR. (NSI News Source Info) August 7, 2008 - Commanding General of Multi-National Force-Iraq Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Army, bids farewell to an Iraqi army general after completing a tour of a market in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, on Aug. 2, 2008.

Pakistan: Impeachment threat for Musharraf

Impeachment threat for Musharraf (NSI News Source Info) August 7, 2008 - Islamabad: President Musharraf has said he would rather resign than be impeached. Pakistan's ruling coalition parties say they have agreed "in principle" to start impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf. Party representatives are said to be looking at a draft impeachment resolution, but further details about how it may proceed were not available. The president's allies were defeated in elections in February, but he has so far resisted pressure to quit. Latest reports say Mr Musharraf has cancelled a trip to the Olympics. News agencies quoted the foreign ministry as saying Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani would attend the Games' opening ceremony in Beijing instead. STEPS TO IMPEACHMENT Impeachment proposers need 50% majority in Senate or National Assembly President given notice of impeachment, and has three days to respond Joint session of Senate and Assembly must be held between 7 and 14 days later to investigate charges If resolution presented, joint session must approve with two-thirds majority OTHER POSSIBLE SCENARIO President dissolves parliament, placing country under emergency rule to prevent impeachment But there has been no confirmation from the president's office. Correspondents say the question of whether or not to impeach Mr Musharraf has threatened to divide the coalition. Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) formed an alliance with the PML-N of former Prime Minister Narwaz Sharif after defeating Mr Musharraf's political allies in February. But they have since been split over the issues of presidential impeachment and the reinstatement of judges sacked by President Musharraf during a state of emergency in November. Exactly what course of action Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari have decided to take is expected to be announced at a joint news conference later. New territory The BBC's Mark Dummett in Islamabad says an impeachment would take Pakistani politics into new territory since no Pakistani leader has faced impeachment before. There has been no response from the president himself, but his supporters in parliament have said they will fight any attempt to remove him. The PPP and PML-N coalition parties do not have the two-thirds majority needed to pass an impeachment resolution, so would need opposition support. Correspondents say some opposition parties do not support impeachment and nor do some members of the PPP itself - so there is scepticism that such a majority could be reached. The president has previously said he would prefer to resign than face impeachment. Last year, he gave up control of the army, the country's most powerful institution, but he retains the power to dissolve parliament. How the military reacts to any efforts to oust him would be crucial in determining his fate.

Boeing Forecasts Continued Strong Air Cargo Traffic GrowthEfficiency drives demand for large freighters

Boeing Forecasts Continued Strong Air Cargo Traffic Growth Efficiency drives demand for large freighters (NSI News Source Info) SEATTLE, Aug. 07, 2008 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] projects that the global air cargo market will continue to exhibit strong, long-term growth, according to the company's Current Market Outlook 2008. During the 20-year forecast period, Boeing projects that the industry will grow at an annualized average of 5.8 percent with the world freighter fleet increasing from 1,948 to 3,892 airplanes. This growth requires a total of 3,358 airplanes joining the freighter fleet by 2027, taking into account anticipated airplane retirements of 1,414 airplanes, according to the annual Outlook, which was released prior to the 2008 Farnborough Air Show. The fleet additions will include 863 new production freighters, with a value of about $206 billion in current U.S. dollars, and 2,495 airplanes from conversions. Widebody freighters will dominate the new production freighter total and 641 will be of the large freighter segment (more than 80 tons (72.6 tonnes) capacity). Demand for new production equipment is driven by operational efficiency and reliability, as well as environmental and regulatory pressures, including noise, emissions and aging. "The forecast is based on a number of factors, most significantly economic growth in diverse areas of the world," said Jim Edgar, regional director, Cargo Marketing for Asia. "Over the long-term, global economic growth will drive demand for new, high-value products as well as seasonal perishables that people have become accustomed to enjoying." More than 60 percent of the fleet additions will be in the widebody category (medium widebody) - with payloads of 40 to 80 tons (36.3 to 72.6 tonnes) - plus large freighters, increasing their share from 61 percent of the current fleet to 65 percent of the 2027 fleet. Consequently, there will be an increase in overall average freighter airplane payload, consistent with prior years' forecasts. "We expect several trends to continue - dedicated freighters will continue to provide an increasing proportion of air cargo capacity, going to nearly 54 percent; and the industry will continue to move to larger airplanes," said Edgar. "Additionally, freighters will continue to comprise about 10 percent of the world jetliner fleet during the forecast period." The share of standard-body freighters (defined as less than 45 tons (40.8 tonnes) capacity single-aisle body width) will decrease from 39 percent to 35 percent over the next two decades. In each of the past three years, Boeing has booked record numbers of new production freighter orders, a total of 236 airplanes, dominated by the company's new 777F and 747-8F models, as well as 56 orders for Boeing Converted Freighter models. Boeing freighters continue to provide more than 90 percent of the world's freighter capacity, due to the industry preference for larger Boeing production and converted freighters. Boeing offers a complete family of production freighter airplanes, including 747-8F, 777F, 767F and 737-700C (convertible), as well the Boeing Converted Freighter line - 747-400BCF, 767-300BCF and MD-11BCF - and smaller airplane conversions through proprietary data licensees. The Current Market Outlook is available on the company's Web site at: The Boeing World Air Cargo Forecast 2008/2009, a more detailed study, will be issued at the 2008 International Air Cargo Forum and Exposition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November.

Boeing Awarded $28.8 Million E-6B Upgrade Contract

Boeing Awarded $28.8 Million E-6B Upgrade Contract (NSI News Source Info) ST. LOUIS, Aug. 07, 2008 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has been awarded a $28.8 million sole-source U.S. Navy contract to upgrade the service's fleet of 16 E-6B airborne command, control and communications aircraft. In support of ongoing E6-B spiral development activities, the first phase of the Internet Protocol Bandwidth Expansion program will use commercial-off-the-shelf technology to increase the aircraft's wideband communications capabilities, allowing for real-time data transmission on the jet. Work on the first aircraft will be completed in 2010. "This is an important upgrade for the E-6 fleet that will provide our warfighters with much greater situational awareness and allow them to more effectively comply with increasingly complex global airspace requirements," said John Fraser, Boeing E-6B program manager. The E-6B is a modified Boeing 707 that provides survivable, durable and reliable airborne command, control and communications in support of the president, secretary of defense and U.S. Strategic Command. "The Navy's E-6B is a key component of our nation's strategic nuclear forces. As the original aircraft manufacturer, Boeing plays an essential role in support of this critical national asset," said Fraser. "We have worked closely with our Navy customer to understand their needs and provide them with the solutions they need to keep the E-6B a viable platform well into the future." The E-6B program reports to Integrated Defense Systems Support Systems' Special Air Mission (SAM) organization, which modifies executive transport aircraft for U.S. government and military customers. "The E-6B contract fits perfectly into the SAM portfolio of aircraft," said Leanne Caret, director of SAM programs for Boeing. "The SAM team will continue to provide the products and services our customers need to perform their very critical mission of command and control for the U.S. government and military." The E-6B program office is located in Oklahoma City, Okla.; however, much of the initial non-recurring effort for both engineering and installation will be conducted at the Boeing Support Systems facility in Wichita, Kan.

Russia postpones Thai satellite launch

Russia postpones Thai satellite launch (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, August 7, 2008 - The launch of a converted RS-20 Voyevoda intercontinental ballistic missile due to put a Thai earth observation satellite into orbit has been postponed once again, a launch company spokesperson said Thursday. The launch, due to take place from a silo in the southern Urals, was postponed as the launch company, Kosmotras, is still waiting for permission from Kazakhstan. During the launch rocket parts will fall on Kazakh territory. "The launch of the RS-20 rocket with the THEOS satellite, planned for August 6 (reserve date August 7) has been postponed due to a delay in obtaining permission for the lift off from the Republic of Kazakhstan," said Vladimir Mikhailov. Russian and Kazakh specialists are currently holding talks to try and reach an agreement on the launch. "A new launch date will be scheduled once an agreement has been reached," Mikhailov said. Kosmotras is a Russian-Ukrainian joint venture that converts RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) ICBMs, scrapped by Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, into Dnepr launch vehicles. The THEOS satellite was designed and manufactured by French company EADS Astrium under a 2004 contract with the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology. Its launch had been previously delayed twice due to Russia's failure to agree with Kazakhstan on where to let spent rocket stages fall. The Thai satellite will be the third to be launched by Russia's Strategic Missile Forces and Kosmotras from the Yasny launch site. Russia launched the Genesis I and Genesis II inflatable spacecraft from the same location in July 2006 and June 2007, respectively, under a contract with the U.S.-based company Bigelow Aerospace. Russia said in late July that the SS-18 remained the most powerful ICBM in the world and would stay in service with the Strategic Missile Forces until 2014-16.

Russian peacekeepers report illegal flights over S. Ossetia

Russian peacekeepers report illegal flights over S. Ossetia (NSI News Source Info) TSKHINVALI, August 7, 2008 - Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone said on Thursday they had identified at least eight illegal flights over Georgia's breakaway region overnight. "Peacekeepers have detected illegal passes of at least eight aircraft [over S. Ossetia], including five Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes and three reconnaissance drones," Vladimir Ivanov, an aide to the commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone. He said the aircraft flew from Georgia heading north toward the Dzhava district in South Ossetia. The conflict between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia intensified last Friday night when Georgian forces shelled the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, leaving six South Ossetians dead and another 15 wounded. Sporadic shelling and skirmishes have continued through the week with more casualties reported on both sides. South Ossetia said on Wednesday that Georgia is planning a full-scale invasion of the region before the start of September.

Russia condemns Mauritania coup

Russia condemns Mauritania coup (NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, August 7, 2008 - Russia condemned Thursday the coup in Mauritania and expressed the hope that the northwest African country's constitution would be respected. "Moscow acts on the assumption that a change of power by force is unacceptable. As is known, this is also the position of the international community, including the African Union. Such anti-constitutional actions deserve condemnation," the Foreign Ministry said. It said Russia hoped the country's new leadership, which has pledged to hold democratic presidential elections, would honor its pledge and give the Mauritanian people "an opportunity to continue stable development within the bounds of the Constitution and in the interest of all sections of Mauritanian society." A group of renegade army officers staged a coup in the early hours of Wednesday morning, detaining President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf. The leaders, along with other top government members, were arrested as soldiers took control of the capital and state radio and television was shut down. Abdallahi became Mauritania's first democratically elected president when a military junta handed power back to a civilian government through elections in 2007 after a bloodless coup in 2005. The president threatened last month to dissolve parliament after lawmakers filed a motion of no confidence in his new government, which then resigned. The largely desert country has had a history of coups since its independence from France in 1960. The European Union on Wednesday condemned the coup, demanded that the president be returned to power, and threatened to halt aid to Mauritania.

Iran's leader to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit

Iran's leader to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit (NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, August 7, 2008 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) scheduled for August 28 in Tajikistan, The Tehran Times reported on Thursday. The paper said during the trip the Iranian president is also due to hold meetings with his Tajik and Afghan counterparts. Afghanistan is part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. Iran and Pakistan, who have held observer status in the SCO since 2005, previously announced their desire to become permanent members of the organization, but their request was not considered at a SCO foreign ministers meeting in Tajikistan on July 25. The SCO, which imposed a moratorium on new admissions two years ago, has said it has no plans to bring in new states, but is open to cooperation with non-members and will introduce the status of "SCO dialogue partner" at the SCO heads of state meeting in Dushanbe in August. The post-Soviet regional bloc, that is widely seen as a counterweight to NATO's influence in Eurasia, comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. The group primarily addresses security issues, but has recently moved to embrace economic and energy projects. Russia and China have been cautious over admitting Iran, embroiled in a long-running dispute with the West and Israel over its nuclear program and alleged support for radical groups in Lebanon and other countries. Both China and Russia have major commercial interests in Iran. China wants Iranian oil and gas, and to sell weapons and other goods to the country, while Moscow hopes to sell more weapons and nuclear energy technology to Tehran. The Kremlin also needs Iran's endorsement for a multinational arrangement to exploit the Caspian Sea's energy resources. The other observers in the group are India and Mongolia.