Thu, Feb 26, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Iran asked Turkey for help with US relations: Erdogan


Iran has asked Turkey to help it resolve its 30-year dispute with the US as a possible prelude to re-establishing ties, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Iranian officials made the request while former US president George W. Bush was in office, Erdogan said, adding that he had passed the message to the White House at the time. He said he was considering using the G20 summit in London in April to raise the matter with US President Barack Obama, who has said he wants to engage with Iran.

“Iran does want Turkey to play such a role. And if the United States also wants and asks us to play this role, we are ready to do this. They [the Iranians] said to us that if something like this [an opportunity for rapprochement] would happen, they want Turkey to play a role. These were words that were said openly ... I have told this to president Bush myself,” he said.

Iran and Turkey have drawn closer in recent years, helped by growing trade links. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met Erdogan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul last August.

Meanwhile, Iran was testing its long-delayed first nuclear power plant yesterday as it pressed ahead with its controversial atomic drive despite international sanctions.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aghazdeh, said the plant in the Gulf port of Bushehr could come on line within the next few months after Russia announced construction had been completed.

Iran is carrying out comprehensive tests of various equipment at the 1,000 megawatt plant, which officials said involve “virtual fuel,” not nuclear fuel rods.

“The construction stage of the nuclear power plant is over. We are now in the pre-commissioning stage, which is a combination of complex procedures,” the visiting head of the Russian nuclear agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, told reporters.

Iran’s IRNA news agency had reported on Tuesday that the two countries would announce a date for the plant to go operational during the pre-commissioning ceremony.

“One cannot determine an exact time for the commissioning and these tests, so it is possible that we could have the plant within the next few months,” Aghazdeh said on state TV.

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