Atul Aneja

Turkey, Brazil bid to defuse tensions

Nuclear swap deal under focus

DUBAI: Turkey, Brazil and Iran are set to hold trilateral talks that could help defuse tensions surrounding Iran's nuclear programme.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will arrive in Tehran on Sunday for talks with his host, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian President. Mr. da Silva will arrive on May 17 to participate in the G-15 summit, which will also be attended by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Iran's state-run Press TV reported.

The talks hope to achieve a breakthrough on a nuclear swap deal between Iran and the global powers. Analysts say significant progress on a swap arrangement that would allow Iran to import nuclear fuel for its medical reactor in Tehran, in return for the export of domestically produced low enriched uranium, could diminish chances of Iran being subjected to fresh international sanctions.

According to the Iranian daily Tehran Times, Brazil and Turkey have drawn up a joint proposal for a nuclear fuel swap and this proposal would be the cornerstone of the trilateral talks.

The daily, quoting diplomatic sources, said the Iran-Turkey border was the proposed location for the exchange of nuclear material, held under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran was also looking forward to follow-up discussions in Turkey with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. The Turks have suggested that Iran's top negotiator on the nuclear issue, Saeed Jalili should hold direct talks with Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy head, who would represent the global powers.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had recently welcomed Ankara's proposal for hosting this dialogue. “This idea has been accepted by Iran. If we agree on a date, this meeting may be held in a short time,” said Mr. Mottaki.

Meanwhile, the United States described Mr. da Silva's mission to Tehran as the last major attempt to engage with Iran. “I think we would view the Lula visit as perhaps the last big shot at engagement,” a senior U.S. State Department official was quoted as saying.