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Turkey seeks steps to facilitate Iran talks

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Turkey's foreign minister has pushed for immediate talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, saying both Iran and major world powers were willing to resume negotiations.

"It is important that the hurdles in front of the talks are removed. [...] We have to understand that both parties are willing to resume negotiations," Ahmet Davutoglu said at a joint news conference with Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Thursday.

Davutoglu said that only the time and place for the talks remained to be settled. He said Turkey was ready to host and "make any other kind of contribution" to talks between Iran and six countries leading negotiations - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

"What is important is for these negotiations to start immediately and for the tensions to be reduced," Davutoglu said.

Salehi, who is ending a two-day visit to Turkey, said the six powers should enter talks without "excuses".

"If there are excuses, it is a sign that they oppose and do not approve of the negotiations," he said.

Iranian officials have said they favour Turkey as a venue for further talks with the six powers.

Tougher sanctions

The efforts to revive the nuclear talks came as the US and Europe ramped up sanctions against Iran.

The US last month enacted new sanctions targeting Iran's central bank and its ability to sell petroleum abroad, though it has delayed implementing the sanctions for at least six months, worried about sending the price of oil higher at a time when the global economy is struggling.

Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz in response to sanctions.

The US and its western allies charge that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran has consistently denied that, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful, aimed at producing electric power and isotopes for cancer treatment.

Earlier on Thursday, Salehi repeated a claim that US President Barack Obama had called for direct talks with Iran in a secret letter to the Islamic Republic's supreme leader that also warned Tehran against closing the Strait of Hormuz.

"They are flexing their muscle (in public) but they are also secretly saying 'come talk with us'," Salehi told Turkey's NTV television in an interview, adding: "The US government should act in an open and honest way."

Obama administration officials denied there was such a letter.


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