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ElBaradei:  Turkey Crucial in Resolution of Iran Nuclear Crisis

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Turkey has a crucial role to play in persuading Iran to return to the negotiating table over its controversial nuclear program. Mohamed ElBaradei made his remarks at the start of a fact-finding mission to Turkey.

Speaking to the private Turkish NTV news channel, ElBaradei said as a fellow Muslim nation and neighbor of Iran, Turkey had a major role to play in convincing Iran to resume talks on its nuclear program and in helping western governments understand Iran's point of view.

Meanwhile, the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is preparing to meet with Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, in Brussels.

Solana is expected to press Larijani for a response to an international incentives package offered to Iran to relinquish its nuclear enrichment program. Iran insists the program is aimed only at the production of nuclear energy, but there are widespread concerns that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons that would target Israel.

Iran has been given a July 12 deadline to resume negotiations or face possible sanctions by the U.N. Security Council.

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul was in Tehran last month to try to persuade Iranian leaders to respond positively to the incentives package. He is expected to return to Iran following talks in Washington, including a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Officials in Ankara are set to brief the IAEA's ElBaradei on, among other things, Turkey's plans to build three nuclear power stations by 2015, which they say are meant only to produce electricity.