Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are in Tehran as part of a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid fresh United Nations sanctions.
President Lula with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Lula and Davutoglu say they will try to convince
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal aimed at
allaying Western concerns over Iran's nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad welcomed Lula at his office in the Iranian capital, where the two leaders held initial talks after an official welcoming ceremony. Davutoglu, the other key mediator in resolving Iran's complicated nuclear standoff with the West, also arrived in Tehran today and is expected to join the talks, Iranian media reported.
Under the proposed deal, Iran would send low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for higher grade uranium for use in a cancer research reactor. The deal broke down in October when Iran insisted the swap take place inside Iran.
President Luiz with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Ahead of his trip to Iran, Lula met in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lula told reporters in the Russian capital that he was "optimistic" and hoped to be able to persuade Ahmadinejad to reach an agreement with the West.
"I must now use everything I have learned over my long political career to convince my friend Ahmadinejad to come to an agreement with the international community," Lula said.
Both Russia and the United States, however, remained skeptical that a deal would be brokered.
Medvedev said Lula's efforts had -- at best -- a 30 percent chance of succeeding. He added that his visit might be "the last chance" for an agreement before the UN Security Council imposes sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said Washington doubts Tehran will provide any "serious response" to concerns over its nuclear program until the UN passes a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.
"Every step along the way has demonstrated clearly to the world that Iran is not participating in the international arena in the way that we had asked them to do and that they continued to pursue their nuclear program," Clinton told reporters on May 14.
Will Iran Budge?
Iran, meanwhile, sent mixed signals.Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said on May 15 that the Turkish and Brazilian effort might lead to an agreement, according to the Iranian foreign office website.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki indicated that Tehran was still not ready to budge from its dogged position. "We hope that the parties will bend to the realities and choose the right path," Iranian media reports quoted him saying.
Since evidence of a clandestine Iranian nuclear program first emerged in 2003, negotiations with world powers and visits by U.N. inspectors have failed to persuade the United States and its allies that Iran is not pursuing a weapons capability.
Iran rejected an earlier UN proposal to enrich its uranium abroad, arguing that it was needed for a nuclear research reactor. The West fears Iran wants highly enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.
Brazil and Turkey, non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, have so far resisted US-led efforts to push through a fourth set of sanctions against Iran over its failure to heed repeated ultimatums to stop enrichment activity.
with agency material
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