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US National Security Adviser Hadley Visits Turkey


U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is meeting Thursday with Turkish officials to reportedly discuss the standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear program. Hadley's visit to Turkey comes two days before talks in Geneva in which a senior U.S. diplomat will for the first time join colleagues from other world powers at a meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is holding talks Thursday with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on so-called routine consultations on regional issues. But, they reportedly are also discussing Iran's nuclear program.

Stressing the relationship between the United States and Turkey, Hadley said the two countries are united in fighting terrorism, including against Kurdish rebels who stage attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.

"The United States appreciates very much its strong strategic partnership with its close friend and strong ally Turkey, as we deal with the challenges of the 21st century," he said.

Though Hadley did not comment on any discussion over Iran's nuclear program, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said at a news conference that the issue of Iran did come up and that it would be "handled through dialogue."

In an interview Wednesday, Babacan spoke about Turkey's role in the diffusing tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

"We have good relations with both Iran and the U.S.," he said. "We respect Iran's right to civil nuclear power, but we also share regional concerns about the situation. We are in touch with all parties involved. They tell us that we should also be in the picture."

Babacan said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki would visit Ankara for talks Friday and the nuclear program would be on their agenda.

Top U.S. Diplomat William Burns will attend talks with Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili in Switzerland on Saturday aimed at persuading Iran to halt activities that could lead to the development of atomic weapons.

Turkey believes Iran has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, but calls on Tehran to be transparent.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out a military strike on Iran if it does not give up uranium enrichment and heed Security Council demands aimed at dispelling fears that Tehran wants to make nuclear weapons. Iran claims its nuclear program is only aimed at generating electricity.

International relations expert Soli Ozel says Turkey has a vested interest in resolving the current tensions.

"Ankara is very concerned about Iran going nuclear , but Ankara is also very concerned about Iran being attacked by the U.S. I guess you would agree we could ill afford to have another war in our neighborhood," he said.

Prime Minister Erdogan said last week that Ankara might be asked to play a role in the Iran nuclear row similar to the role it is playing in Syria-Israel peace efforts. Ankara is currently mediating indirect talks between Tel Aviv and Damascus.

Ankara is also reported to have played an important role in defusing recent tensions in Lebanon over the election of its president.

The current Islamic rooted AK party -- unlike many of its predecessors -- has made it a priority to improve relations with Middle Eastern countries. According to experts, that policy is making Ankara an increasingly important diplomatic player in the volatile Middle East.