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Brazil And Turkey Seek To Save Iran Nuke Deal

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 16.05.2010 17:40

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held talks in Tehran with Iran's leaders as part of a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program and avoid fresh United Nations sanctions.

In a possible signal that the talks could be making progress, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has postponed a visit to Azerbaijan and is expected to travel to Tehran to join the talks on May 17, news agencies reported.

Turkey and Brazil are trying to convince Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to accept a nuclear fuel swap deal aimed at allaying Western concerns over Iran's nuclear program. The talks are scheduled to continue on May 17.

Earlier on May 16, an unidentified Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that Erdogan would only consider joining the talks in Tehran if a deal appeared likely. Turkish media reported on May 16 that if a deal is reached it could be signed in Turkey.

Ahmadinejad welcomed Lula at his office in the Iranian capital on the morning of May 16, where the two leaders held initial talks after an official welcome ceremony. Davutoglu joined the talks later, news agencies 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.

There were no public comments about progress on the nuclear issue after the talks. Several trade agreements were announced and Lula said Brazil would finance 1 billion ($1.2 billion) of food exports to Iran over the next five years to make trade between the two countries less dependent on foreign banks.

Lula, who heads a 300-strong delegation, also met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on major issues.

Last Chance

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.

The United States is pushing for a fourth round of punitive sanctions against Tehran, including measures targeting Iranian banks and shipping.

Will Iran Budge?

Iran, meanwhile, has been sending mixed signals in recent days.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 Ministry 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.

During the talks on May 16, Iranian officials and its state-controlled media ignored the nuclear issue and instead focused on bilateral relations with Brazil. Ahmadinejad said Lula's trip "enjoys a special importance" and hailed the "serious cooperation between the two great nations."

Khamenei said that "America is over the proximity of independent countries like Iran and Brazil."

Since evidence of a clandestine Iranian nuclear program first emerged in 2003, negotiations with world powers and visits by UN inspectors have failed to persuade the United States and its allies that Iran is not pursuing a weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is solely to produce electricity.

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, nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council, have so far resisted U.S.-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

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/Brazil_Seeks_To_Save_Iran_Nuke_Deal/2043717.html

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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