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Iran's President Seeks Regional Economic Help


President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran speaks during the meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization, in Istanbul, Turkey, 23 Dec 2010

President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran speaks during the meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization, in Istanbul, Turkey, 23 Dec 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is meeting leaders attending a regional economic summit in Turkey, as he seeks economic help under straining international sanctions involving his country's disputed nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad spoke at a meeting in Istanbul Thursday of the Economic Cooperation Organization, as he handed off the rotating ECO presidency to Turkey. He said the group has great potential for collective cooperation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President President Asif Ali Zardari and Iraqi leader Jalal Talabani are among the heads of state attending the summit.

Foreign ministers from Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan agreed at the summit to cooperate on trade, economic and environmental issues, as well as combating terrorism, organized crime and trafficking in weapons, drugs and people.

The summit is taking place about a month before Iran holds talks on its nuclear program with six world powers in Istanbul.

Ahmadinejad and his top nuclear official, Ali Akbar Salehi, met with Turkish officials late Wednesday to discuss the nuclear negotiations.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday that Turkey, as the host country, will do whatever it can to achieve a productive round of talks. He said the positive momentum gained at the first round of talks recently in Geneva must be maintained.

Analysts say Iran may ask Turkey to mediate the talks in Istanbul with diplomats from Germany and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The U.N. Security Council, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons.

ECO was founded in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, and includes Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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