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Bonino to visit Iran

Talks with Iranian government planned in 'next few days'

12 December, 18:21
Bonino to visit Iran (ANSA) - Rome, December 12 - Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said Thursday that she will visit Tehran for talks with the Iranian government "in the next few days". The visit, aimed at cementing commercial ties between Italy and Iran, comes after the United States and other world powers agreed last month in Geneva that they would not renew sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program. Bonino's visit would mark the first official visit to Tehran by an Italian official since a visit in 2004 by then foreign minister Franco Frattini.

The Italian government became engaged with Iranian issues soon after President Hassan Rohani's election in June, sending Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli to Tehran to sound out the new president's intentions.

In September, Premier Enrico Letta met with Rohani in New York and said that moving Iran "away from its isolation is in everybody's strategic interest and Italy will play its part".

"Our cooperation with Iran was traditionally very, very good," Bonino said recently. "We know well that if sanctions were to be eased, a race towards Iran would start," she added in an interview in early November. "We are working on a plan of exchanges and cooperation not just in the energy sector".

On Monday, she told foreign journalists that the objective of last month's Geneva pact is to "make sure the agreement works and that a new phase can begin".

At the same time, she urged a cautious approach through a six-month accord and monitoring, but suggested that the deal was "the first essential step towards the reconstruction of a climate of indispensable confidence to reassure the international community".

Bonino has said that it is hoped that Tehran's involvement will contribute to achieving peace in the region, including the search for a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

Commercial links between Italy and Iran have been strong despite the sanctions.

According to data released by the Italian-Iranian chamber of commerce, trade between the two countries has progressively grown since 2002 reaching a peak of 7.097 million euros in 2011.

After the EU's commercial sanctions were widened, trade in the January-November 2012 period halved to 3.506 million though Italy remained Iran's top European trading partner.

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