April 19, 2010 / 12:37 PM / 10 years ago

Turkish minister in Iran to discuss nuclear row

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s foreign minister said he will meet his Iranian counterpart in Tehran later on Monday as part of his country’s attempts to mediate in a standoff between Western powers and Iran over its nuclear programme.

Ahmet Davutoglu’s trip comes as Western powers push for new U.N. sanctions to try to halt Iran’s nuclear programme and as U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security advisers are considering a broad range of options — among them military strikes — should diplomacy and sanctions fail.

“We have talked about these issues in Washington and I would like to negotiate them with Iranian officials,” Davutoglu told a news conference, referring to a nuclear security summit in Washington last week in which NATO member Turkey took part.

“This issue is important for global and regional peace efforts and also for Turkey’s national interests.”

Iran was not invited to the Washington summit.

Davutoglu, whose country is a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and is opposed to U.S.-backed sanctions against Iran, said he planned to have dinner with Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Monday and meet other Iranian officials on Tuesday.

Turkey, which buys a third of its gas exports from Iran, has voiced doubts over the effectiveness of sanctions against Tehran, putting itself at odds with Ankara’s traditional Western allies.

Iran and Turkey have deepened ties since the AK Party, which has its roots in Islam, took office in Ankara, and Turkey has said its trade would suffer if sanctions were imposed.

Turkey signed a preliminary deal in November 2008 for gas to be exported to Europe through Turkey and for Turkey to produce gas in Iran’s South Pars field. The investment would amount to $3.5 billion.

Despite good relations with Tehran, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan’s attempts to persuade Iranian leaders to make moves needed to allay international concerns have so far come to nothing.

Big power envoys at the United Nations are discussing a U.S. draft resolution that provides for a fourth round of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment.

The draft proposes new curbs on Iranian banking, a full arms embargo, tougher measures against Iranian shipping, moves against members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a ban on new investments in Iran’s energy sector.

Turkey is resisting pressure from Washington to back them.

Pentagon officials said on Sunday Obama’s national security advisers were considering a broad range of options to curb Iran’s nuclear program, among them military strikes, if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

The West accuses Tehran of seeking to produce atomic arms but Tehran says it aims only to generate electricity.

Editing by Giles Elgood

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