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Turkish Prime Minister In Tehran For Talks On Nuclear Dispute, Syria

Syria is expected to figure prominently in talks between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left). (file photo)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Tehran for talks on the international deadlock over Iran's nuclear program and the Syrian conflict.

Edrogan was expected to meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad during his two-day visit, which began on March 28.

Turkey has repeatedly voiced its support for Iran's right to establish a peaceful nuclear program and has refused to support Western sanctions targeting Iran's oil industry.

The two regional powers, however, are divided over Syria.

During the past year of bloodshed, Iran has continued to back the Syrian regime, the Islamic republic's closest Arab ally.

Erdogan, however, has urged President Bashar al-Assad to leave power to help end the conflict in Syria, Turkey's neighbor to the south.

Erdogan arrived in Tehran after holding talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at a nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea.

Iran To Hold Nuclear Talks

While welcoming Erdogan upon his arrival in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced that talks between Iran and six major world powers over the Persian Gulf state's nuclear program are to resume on April 13. Salehi said the venue of the talks is yet to be agreed.

NATO ally Turkey has offered to host the next round of talks which involve Iran and the five UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

The previous round of talks, which collapsed in January 2011, were held in Istanbul.

Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to develop weapons under cover of its nuclear program and has imposed multiple rounds of sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt atomic work that could be directed toward the manufacture of weapons.

Iran denies trying to develop a nuclear weapon, saying its atomic program is for peaceful purposes only.

'Time Running Out'

U.S. President Obama said in Seoul that the time to resolve the Iranian dispute is running short.

Turkish officials have dismissed speculation that Erdogan could be carrying a U.S. message to Iranian leaders on the nuclear issue.

The continuing conflict in Syria -- where the United Nations estimates more than 9,000 have died over the past year -- is also expected to be a sensitive issue in Erdogan's talks with Iranian leaders.

On the eve of Erdogan's visit, President Ahmadinejad praised the Syrian government's handling of the popular uprising.

Turkey is reportedly currently providing shelter to more than 17,000 Syrians who have fled the violence, as well as fighters from the rebel Free Syrian army.

It also has allowed Syrian opposition groups to meet regularly in Istanbul.

In Tehran, Erdogan -- who is accompanied by a large delegation that includes several cabinet ministers -- is also expected to discuss bilateral relations.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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