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Iran's nuclear program a focus of Turkish leader's Tehran visit

March 28, 2012 |  9:47 am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran

REPORTING FROM TEHRAN -- Turkey's leader arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for a two-day visit that will focus on Iran's nuclear program ahead of talks on the issue between world powers and the Islamic republic.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is likely to discuss where Iranian negotiators will meet with representatives from the United States and its allies when talks on Tehran's nuclear ambitions restart, which is scheduled for April 13. Istanbul has been discussed as one possible venue for those discussions.

The West suspects that Iran's nuclear program is intended to develop weapons, despite Tehran's insistence that the effort is aimed at peaceful purposes.

Erdogan, who was greeted at the airport by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, flew in from South Korea, where he had attended a nuclear security summit with other world leaders. He was accompanied by a large delegation of Turkish ministers.

"Turkey wants to flex its muscles as a big power in the region and get bargaining chips in the West," said Nader Karimi Joni, an Iranian analyst and columnist for a reformist newspaper. "Turkey wants to show itself off to the West to prove that it can handle crisis in the region."

Turkey, which is located both in Europe and Asia, has long been seeking membership in the European Union.

Meanwhile, Turkey reportedly wants to persuade Iran to think beyond its longtime alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and will offer itself as a way to engage in secret talks with the Syrian opposition.


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Photo: Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, left, shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a welcoming ceremony under the rain in Tehran on Wednesday. Credit: Atta Kenare / Agence France-Presse/Getty Images