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Diplomatic activity heats up in Iran

Turkish PM arrives in Tehran to discuss Iraq crisis

Tehran, Jan 12, IRNA -- Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul arrived here from Saudi Arabia on the last ditch of his visit to Iraq's immediate neighbors which call for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi standoff amid US threats to attack Baghdad.

The Turkish PM, who visits the Islamic Republic for the first time since he came to office in November, was received at the Saadabad Cultural Complex by Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref and is due to meet further with President Mohammad Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi in his one-day trip.

The visit is part of Gul's tour of the Middle East to discuss regional concerns about a possible US attack on Iraq and their efforts to avert a war.

During his one-day visit in Riyadh, the Turkish prime minister met with King Fahd, Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

The tour comes on the back of Gul's recent visits to Jordan, Egypt and Syria in which he expressed Ankara's opposition to a US attack.

"The consequences of war will be disastrous," Gul said in Amman as he wound up the three-country tour.

"If peaceful means do not yield a result and an undesired war emerges, its subsequent negative repercussions on the entire region concerns everyone," he was quoted as saying in Damascus last Saturday.

Turkey -- a key American ally in the region and the only Muslim member of NATO -- is under growing US pressure to lend support to its possible military attack on Iraq.

Washington had made new demands from the Turkish government in connection with the Iraqi crisis, Gul said, without specifying them.

"These demands are seen in line with Turkey's national interests, on which a decision will be made," he said, adding the Turkish parliament will decide on the matter.

Ankara is faced with a widespread opposition of its public opinion and the country's parliament to another American war in the region. Turkey helped the US during the 1991 Persian Gulf war against Iraq.

Both Iran and Turkey have long borders with Iraq.

Syrian president due in Tehran Wednesday

Tehran, Jan 12, IRNA -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will arrive here on Wednesday on the heels of several other regional and European officials' visits to the Islamic Republic which has launched a fresh round of lobbies to avert a war.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said Bashar's visit will let Tehran and Syria which "hold regular exchange of views" become familiar with each other's assessment of the prevailing situation in the Middle East.

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul arrived here from Saudi Arabia for a one-day visit on the last ditch of his trip to Iraq's immediate neighbors in order to find a peaceful solution to the Iraqi standoff amid US threats to attack Baghdad.

Asefi said also on schedule was the visits of Finnish and Romanian foreign ministers who would arrive in Tehran soon in order to discuss the "regional crisis" as well as the "future of relations between Iran and the European Union".

"There exists an appropriate atmosphere to discuss the future of ties between Iran and the European countries, which we will use it," Asefi told representatives of Iranian and foreign media.

Another question on the agenda of discussions is Palestine which the Iranian official said is the "most important issue of the region".

"Palestine is the most important issue of the Islamic world and we raise up the Palestinian issue in all the meetings which we hold with dignitaries," Asefi added.

"One of the aims of the pressure exerted by the Zionist regime and America on the region is to somersault the Palestinian issue into oblivion, but we should not let the Iraqi crisis be exploited ... and the Palestinian people be forgotten," he said.

Head of the Iraqi opposition leader of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, paid a six-day visit to Tehran and left here on Sunday.

He told at a news conference here Friday that US officials were ready to give Iran any security guarantees which it wanted in the event of an American attack on Iraq.

Asefi said Iran had received no messages from Americans as he denounced US plans to topple Saddam Hussein.

"He (Jalal Talabani) did not carry any message and he discussed only issues in the framework of his agenda. But, no country can bear any ill intentions toward Iran," he said, commenting on a part of the PUK leader's statements that US officials had told him they had no bad intentions against the Islamic Republic.

"The regional and international situation will not let America continue with its expansionist intentions and pressures on the Islamic countries," Asefi added.

The Iranian official ruled out any cooperation between the Islamic Republic and the United States in the event of a US attack to topple the Iraqi regime.

"It is up to the Iraqi people to choose their governments. Although the Iraqi regime has inflicted the biggest blow on the Islamic Republic with American support in the past, a military attack of this country on Iraq is not justified," Asefi said.

"Our most important aim is to preserve the country's interests, but we are also opposed to a military attack on an Islamic country," the official reiterated.

Khatami receives Kuwaiti foreign minister

Tehran, Jan 12, IRNA -- President Mohammad Khatami here Sunday stressed the need to restore security as a prerequisite for development, prosperity and stability of the region.

"Iran and Kuwait have suffered greatly from the wrong policies of Baghdad rulers," Khatami said during a meeting with visiting Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah who submitted to him a written message from Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad as-Sabah.

Khatami voiced Iran's opposition to a possible U.S. military attack on Iraq.

"The Zionist regime continues its atrocities against the defenseless Palestinian people by taking advantage of the current situation in the region," Khatami said.

Calling for constant exchange of views and contacts among regional countries, President Khatami expressed hope that the Iraqi crisis would be solved through Baghdad's cooperation with the United Nations and its compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions.

"Regional countries should use their potentials to accelerate their progress and development based on mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs," he added.

Khatami termed Tehran-Kuwait City ties in various fields as "suitable", saying the Islamic Republic's foreign policy attaches special importance to expansion of ties with all world countries particularly regional states.

Sheikh Sabah, for his part, described ties between Iran and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council as "pleasant" and said some minor problems can be removed via cooperation and exchange of views.

He called for further consolidation of bilateral ties in all fields.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, heading a high ranking political delegation, arrived in Tehran Saturday to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments.

Kuwaiti information minister and acting oil minister, minister of electricity and water and deputy minister of economy and finance of that country are accompanying the minister during his three-day stay in Tehran.

He will also pay a brief visit to the historical city of Isfahan.

Iraqi Foreign Minister may visit Iran: Asefi

Tehran, Jan 12, IRNA -- Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said here Sunday that he did not rule out a visit by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to the Islamic Republic in the near future.

"This issue is under examination, but no date has yet been set for the visit," he told representatives of foreign and Iranian media, adding 'the visit will take place' at an appropriate time.

Earlier, the press quoted an MP from Ardebil province, Noureddin Pirmoazzen, as saying that several parliamentarians were preparing to impeach Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi if Sabri's visit goes ahead.

"The Iranian public opinion cannot accept the presence of the Iraqi foreign minister in Iran, particularly given the fact that Iraq imposed a devastating eight-year war on Iran for which it has so far refused to apologize," the lawmaker was quoted as saying.

Iran has turned to a stage for international lobbies in recent weeks as several foreign diplomats have visited the Islamic Republic, with more trips still on paper.

On Sunday, the leader of the Iraqi opposition Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, wrapped up his six-day visit to Iran before Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul arrived from Saudi Arabia on a one-day visit.

Asefi said foreign ministers of Finland and Romania will travel to Iran in coming days.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah arrived here Saturday to discuss bilateral ties and regional developments.

Afghan foreign minister hails talks with Iran

Tehran, Jan 12, IRNA -- Visiting Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah here on Sunday described his consultations with Iranian top brass as "fruitful."

"During the meetings with Iranian officials, the two sides conferred on several matters including our cooperation in (Afghan) reconstruction projects, the anti-drug campaign as well as the repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland," said the Afghan minster.

He further acknowledged the valuable assistance rendered by the Islamic Republic toward reconstruction of his war-shattered country such as the repair of its water supply channels, electricity network, rebuilding of schools as well as hospitals and health care centers.

"No country can strain relations between Tehran and Kabul," he assured.

He said nationwide elections will be held in Afghanistan from June 21-July 21, 2004 in order to establish a permanent government for the country.

Philippines FM due in Tehran on Monday

Tehran, Jan 12, IRNA -- The Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Blas Ople, heading a delegation of officials from the state and private sectors, will arrive here on Monday to attend the third Iran-Philippines economic commission meeting.

The Public Relations Department of Commerce Ministry announced that the agenda of the joint meeting will cover economic cooperation, particularly in shipping, tourism and oil sectors.

The 3rd Iran-Philippines economic commission meeting will be held from January 12 to 17 in Tehran.

Blas Ople is to confer with President Mohammad Khatami, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh on issues of mutual interest.

... Payvand News - 1/12/03 ... --

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