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Iranian, Indian FMs hold strategic talks


TEHRAN, Feb. 7 (Mehr News Agency) – Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki held talks in Teharn on Wednesday with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on a range of issues including the strategic energy cooperation between Iran and India, Iran’s nuclear issue, the security situation in Afghanistan, and other matters of mutual interest.


The Indian foreign minister also held separate talks with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.



Pranab Mukherjee and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani



Mottaki called his talks with his Indian counterpart “constructive”.


“In the negotiations, there was an insistence on the need for sustainable strategic talks between the two countries based on previous frameworks,” Mottaki told reporters at a joint press conference with Mukherjee.


Iran’s top diplomat also said that they discussed the preparations for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s upcoming visit to Tehran and explored ways to expand cooperation in various areas, especially in trade and investment.


Mottaki said economic and trade deals between the two countries, which currently stand above $6 billion annually, show that the ties are growing, adding the relations would expand in the future in various fields.


Pointing to the importance of energy in relations between Iran and India, the Iranian foreign minister said, “As a trustworthy partner, the Islamic Republic of Iran is happy to play a role in providing energy to Asian states.”


Mottaki said Mukherjee informed him about the nuclear cooperation between India and the United States, noting that he also briefed his Indian counterpart on Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities and the position of the Islamic Republic in the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West.


The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1737 on December 23 imposing sanctions on Iran’s trade in nuclear material and technology as Iran refused to stop its uranium enrichment activities.


The two foreign ministers also discussed the need to establish security in Iraq, which requires the cooperation of all countries, he explained.


Support for Afghan government


Mottaki said that since India plays an important role in Asia, the two sides also discussed various issues of importance for the region including the situation in Afghanistan and the necessity to support the government of President Hamid Karzai.


Gas pipeline 


Iran, Pakistan, and India agreed recently on a pricing formula for the export of Iranian gas to India through Pakistan to be delivered via a proposed $7 billion pipeline. The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project has been dubbed the peace pipeline.


“In the recent meeting of the deputy oil ministers of the three countries, positive steps were taken, and we hope that new steps will be taken promptly.”


In a separate meeting with Mukherjee, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said that Iran sees no limitations in cooperation with India.


“Iran and Pakistan’s agreement has been finalized on transferring 5 million tons of gas in 25 years, and thus Iran will be among the most important countries that supply India’s energy,” Mukherjee told the president.



Nuclear activities will continue


On a report that Iran has installed two more cascades of centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, Mottaki said, “Iran’s peaceful nuclear activity is following its natural course under the supervision of inspectors and the agency’s cameras.”


Iran is continuing its legal nuclear activities and the Foreign Ministry or the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) release information about each stage of the nuclear work whenever it becomes necessary, he noted.


Talks without preconditions


As has been announced previously, Iran will not accept any preconditions for resuming nuclear talks and at the same time Iran will not impose any restrictions on the issues that can be raised at talks, Mottaki said.


The West has said that Iran needs to halt its uranium enrichment as a precondition for any direct talks.


The Iranian foreign minister stated, “I think in this framework, all proposals and plans about Iran’s (nuclear issue) can be raised, discussed, and put to a final decision.


“We have two issues, strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty and suspension, and all sides agree that strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty has a higher priority.


“Therefore, I think if we reach an acceptable formula within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty along with confidence building, then the suspension of Iran’s legal activities will no longer be an issue.”


Ancient civilizations 


Mukherjee said the India-Iran relationship is based on the centuries of ties between the two ancient civilizations.


He went on to say that his trip to Iran came in response to Mottaki’s trip to India last November.


Mukherjee added that he discussed joint investment, double taxation, trade, and related subjects with Mottaki.


They also discussed energy and opportunities for Indian companies to work in Iran, India’s chief diplomat said.


Mukherjee noted that he and Mottaki also agreed on the need to adopt long-term and strategic arrangements on the shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Iran to India.


Indian FM Pranab Mukherjee and Iranian FM Manuchehr Mottaki


“We believe that the Iranian nuclear problem should be resolved peacefully and through negotiations,” he added.


He described the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in settling the row over Iran’s nuclear program as very important, and said that in order to reach a negotiated solution, it is necessary for Iran and the IAEA to cooperate closely.


The Indian foreign minister also urged Iran and all parties involved in the nuclear standoff to be more flexible.


New Delhi greatly values the importance of establishing peace and security in the region, he stated, adding, “We attach special importance to Iran as a main factor for peace and stability in the region.”


He also said his country seeks the safe shipment of energy through the Persian Gulf.


He observed that UN resolution 1737 concedes the role of the IAEA and can provide an opportunity to resolve the issue peacefully.


The ties between Tehran and New Delhi are “independent of any third country” and this relationship will continue, the Indian foreign minister pointed out.


The Munich conference 


Asked whether he would participate in the Munich conference along with Larijani, Mottaki said, “I will take part in another conference in Monaco which also touches on political and security issues.”


Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani, who is Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, is scheduled to take part in a major annual security conference to be held in Munich from February 9 to 11.


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