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EU Commissioner Chris Patten to pay highly significant visit to Iran

Brussels, Jan 31, IRNA -- The EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten will begin a high-profile visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran on Monday to discuss bilateral Iran-EU ties and regional developments.

Patten's spokeswoman Emma Udwin quoted to reporters in Brussels Friday the Commissioner saying that "It is very important that at this testing moment for the international community, we do not allow a 'clash of civilisations' to develop.''

''Europe's history is intertwined with the Islamic world. Commitment to peace, the fight against terrorism and the quest for stability should be values shared between the great cultures of Europe and the Middle East. I hope during this trip to underline our common ground".

Udwin said after this three-day visit to Iran, Patten will go to Turkey and then to Lebanon.

The Commissioner's first bilateral visit to Iran is an opportunity to review the international situation with a key player in the region, and deepen discussion on the EU's four priorities for political dialogue: Human Rights, Non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Co operation in the fight against Terrorism, and support for the Peace Process in the Middle East, said a press release issued by the Commission Friday.

Patten will meet President Mohammad Khatami, and Foreign Minister amal Kharrazi as well as other senior members of the Iranian government, for discussions on bilateral relations between Iran and the EU as well as the situation in Iran's neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continuing crisis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Commissioner Patten said in a press statement: "We in Europe have a huge interest in Iran's development. Without wishing to interfere, we hope that Iran will recognise that the process of reform opens the way for Iran to play a more significant role regionally and globally".

The EU launched negotiations in Brussels last December for a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) along with a Political Dialogue and Counter-terrorism.

In parallel, an EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue was also launched in Tehran in December.

These linked initiatives underline the Union's support for the process of political and economic reform in Iran.

The Iranian government has consistently called on Iraq to co-operate with the UN SCR 1441, noted the press release.

Discussions in Tehran will touch on prospects for peace, and repercussions of a military attack on Iraq.

The Commissioner will also discuss the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The EU is keen that Iran should use its influence in the region to reduce tensions and hasten an end to the conflict.

The EU welcomes the Iranian's government's determination to establish itself as a credible partner in the international fight against terrorism, and the Commissioner will use his visit reinforce the effort to find shared approaches.

Patten will launch on Wednesday the second round of negotiations for a TCA with Iran and the first to be held in Tehran.

The TCA will be a non-preferential Agreement, focussed on economic and financial co-operation in areas of mutual interest and on trade liberalisation.

The objectives of the TCA are to:

- Establish a contractual regime to govern trade between the EU and Iran, following WTO provisions, such as "most-favoured nation" treatment, national treatment, non-discrimination and defining the level of tariff protection.

- Support Iran in its adaptation to WTO rules and practice, in areas such as intellectual property, public procurement, standards and sanitary issues;

- Develop closer co-operation with Iran in economic and other areas such as energy, transport, environment, drugs control, asylum, migration and refugees, and culture.

... Payvand News - 2/1/03 ... --

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