The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due in Moscow on Monday for an official visit focused on expanding energy and military cooperation between Russia and NATO member Greece.
The three-day trip will include talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid ongoing negotiations for Greece to buy more than 400 Russian tanks.
Defense officials have announced few details of the possible deal, but state television and other Greek media said the government plans to spend €1.2 billion (US$1.7 billion) on buying BMP-3M infantry fighting vehicles.
The negotiations will take place amid fresh strain between Moscow and NATO countries after Russia suspended participation this week in the Conventional Forces in Europe arms control treaty.
Greece remains keen to keep pace in military development with regional rival Turkey. It has added Russian weapons to its arsenal to diversify its armed forces, including the S-300 surface-to-air missile system.
On Friday, Karamanlis rejected suggestions he was trying to appease Moscow with the tank deal after supporting a pipeline project that would compete with Russian suppliers and eventually transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Italy.
Greek and Turkish leaders inaugurated a section of that pipeline last month.
"There is no deal under the table, over the table, or on the side of the table," Karamanlis said. "Our defense cooperation with Russia goes back many years ... This (deal) is in the interest of the country as well as the treasury because cost is also a factor."
He added: "We have broad energy cooperation with Russia which is going very well."
Greece imports Russian natural gas and in March Putin signed a deal in Athens to promote construction of a 280-kilometer (175-mile) Russian oil pipeline from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece.
Putin has visited Greece three times since 2005 and developed a close relationship with Karamanlis.
During devastating wildfires in Greece this summer, Karamanlis called on Putin for urgent assistance. Russian sent firefighting planes and helicopters to help Greek firefighters.