A top Iranian official is holding talks with Turkish leaders to drum up support for his government amid mounting international pressure for Iran to halt its nuclear program.
Iran's National Security chief, Ali Larijani, said his country was not preparing to withdraw from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and wanted, what he called, a diplomatic solution to Iran's continuing standoff with the international community over its nuclear enrichment program.
Speaking to the private NTV news channel during a day-long visit to Ankara Monday, Larijani said the International Atomic Energy Agency, not the United Nations was where nuclear disputes needed to be resolved.
Larijani was referring to proposed international sanctions that could be approved by the U.N. should Iran persist in enriching uranium, material usable in the production of a nuclear bomb. Larijani additionally warned the United States against military action against Iran, saying this would land it in "worse trouble" than in Iraq. Larijani added that a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to President Bush Monday outlining alternatives to the dispute could provide what he called "an opening". He declined to elaborate.
In recent months, Iran has been seeking to deter its long time regional rival, Turkey, from siding with the United States in the nuclear dispute. Should the United States resort to military action, Iran fears that Turkey may open its bases to American forces.
U.S. and Turkish officials deny that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought possible use of Turkish bases against Iran during a visit to Ankara last month.
For now, Turkey's support is limited to warning Iran against the possible consequences of its failure to satisfy IAEA inspectors' demands for full and unfettered access to its nuclear facilities. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to repeat those warnings during a meeting with Larijani.
The prospect of a U.S.- led strike against Iran is a most unwelcome one in Turkey, which has maintained peaceful if sporadically tense relations with its southern neighbor for well over three centuries. So is an international embargo. Iran is Turkey's top supplier of oil and its second top supplier of natural gas. The two countries have also, in recent years, shared security concern about the possible emergence of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. They fear a Kurdish homeland on their borders could become a magnet for their own restive Kurdish minorities.
Those fears have put Turkey at odds with the United States. That is because Washington refuses to take military action against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, saying it cannot do so when its forces are already stretched fighting insurgents in central and southern Iraq. The Kurdish rebel group, known as the PKK, has been fighting Turkish security forces on and off since 1984. In a move calculated to win Turkish sympathy and to drive a wedge between Ankara and Washington, Iran has been bombing PKK camps along its border with Iraq in recent weeks
Larijani charged Monday that U.S. officials were meeting secretly with PKK rebel commanders in northern Iraq. U.S. officials deny the charges.