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Shuttle Diplomacy Continues Over Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki (right) speaks during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu following a meeting in Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki (right) speaks during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu following a meeting in Tehran.

(RFE/RL) -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is meeting with Iranian officials today during his visit to Tehran, which is aimed at breaking the deadlock over the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

After talks with his Iranian counterpart, Manuchehr Mottaki, Davutoglu said Ankara did not want "Iran-phobia" in the region and called for continued diplomatic efforts to settle any disputes which could lead to a crisis.

Mottaki insisted that Turkey was "not a mediator but a major part in constant consultations for restoring peace and calm in the region." The Iranian minister added that such consultations were also made with Japan and Brazil.

He also said that while Iran was following the natural course of its nuclear program, it was still willing to listen to new proposals as well.

The comment was echoed by Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast at a weekly press briefing, who said Iran has "several proposals on the provision of nuclear fuel for Tehran's research reactor from different countries in written form and orally. All the proposals are being studied, and we will respond positively to a proposal if it is deemed suitable from our point of view."

Davutoglu was expected to also meet with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Said Jalili, during his one-day visit.

Turkey, a NATO member, has good relations with Iran. Ankara has offered to store Iran's nuclear material as part of a potential swap arrangement with world powers. Western powers see the UN-drafted deal as a means to ensure that Iran will not further enrich uranium for potential use in nuclear weapons.

But tensions have increased after Iran last week announced it had started producing 20 percent-enriched uranium for use in a medical research reactor in Tehran. On February 14, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said several months of efforts by Ankara to broker a compromise had yet to produce results.

Clinton In Gulf

Davutoglu's visit comes as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up a three-day tour of the Persian Gulf region, aimed at building support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran.

Speaking at a Saudi women's college in the city of Jeddah today, Clinton said the "evidence doesn't support" Iran's claim it is pursuing a peaceful nuclear program. Calling Tehran "the largest supporter of terrorism in the world today," Clinton also warned that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, it could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

After talks with Saudi King Abdullah on February 15, Clinton said Tehran was leaving the international community little choice but to take measures against Iran.

"International solidarity is critical in dealing with Iran," Clinton said. "We are working actively with our regional and international partners in the context of our dual-track approach to prepare and implement new measures to convince Iran to change its course."

She spoke alongside her Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said the threat posed by Iran demanded "an immediate resolution rather than a gradual resolution." Some experts have suggested that only a multi-pronged approach involving intense economic pressure from Iran's neighbors will work with Tehran.

Prince Saud played down suggestions that Saudi Arabia could help ease Beijing's reluctance to impose further sanctions on Iran by offering China guarantees it would meet any shortfall in its oil needs if further sanctions are imposed. He said the Chinese "need no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do."

In neighboring Qatar earlier on February 15, Clinton told students that "the government in Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward military dictatorship" and that the region had reason to fear Iran's nuclear program.

Mottaki responded today that U.S. policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon and the killing of innocent civilians "were real symbols of military dictatorship."

Netanyahu In Kremlin

Meanwhile in Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was expected to seek support for fresh sanctions against Iran during talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today.

In an interview with the Interfax news agency, Netanyahu called for "paralyzing sanctions" against Iran's energy sector, saying they should halt Iran's oil exports and prevent the Islamic republic from importing gasoline.

Netanyahu made a similar call during talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on February 15.

The Kremlin said today that Russia's position remained "unchanged." Spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told reporters that Moscow still believes that Iran "should more actively and broadly cooperate" with the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Tehran fails to fulfill its obligations, she said, "no one can exclude the application of sanctions."

Russia has long-standing ties with Iran and is helping to build the country's first civilian nuclear power plant in the city of Bushehr.

Moscow, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with the power to veto any resolution, has repeatedly urged restraint in the nuclear standoff.

In Tehran, Mottaki today urged both China and Russia to resist U.S. efforts to persuade them to back further UN sanctions against Iran. Mottaki said Iran would increase its economic cooperation with Moscow if it chooses "correct and logical" stances toward Iran.

In a televised news conference, Ahmadinejad warned that any country that tried to impose new sanctions on Iran would regret its actions, saying, "If anybody seeks to create problems for Iran, our response will not be like before."

compiled from agency reports