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Iranian Foreign Minister Optimistic About Key Talks

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says he expects this weekend's talks in Geneva that will include the participation of a U.S. diplomat will bring significant progress in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. His comment was made during a visit to the Turkish capital Ankara. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul.

Iran's nuclear program topped the agenda of talks between the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan.

Mottaki's visit comes ahead of Saturday's meeting in Geneva with the international community over growing concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

Both the United States and Israel suspect Iran of carrying out a secret program to build atomic weapons - a charge denied by Tehran.

But Mottaki, addressing a press conference, expressed optimism about the talks.

The new negotiation process, with the participation of a U.S. diplomat, looks positive from the outset, but we hope that is reflected in the talks, he said.

The United States until now had ruled out participating in negotiations with Iran unless it stopped uranium enrichment. But the decision to send senior U.S. diplomat William Burns was described as a positive move by the Iranian foreign minister.

Foreign Minister Babacan stressed the importance of talks rather than conflict to resolve the current Iranian tensions.

Dialog and consultations are necessary to build confidence. We stress the importance of dialog in all of our meetings. We wish for the process to continue successfully, he said.

Mottaki also welcomed reports that Washington may open a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

He said, I think there might be an agreement both on the issue of opening a U.S. interest protection bureau in Iran and on the issue of direct flights to Iran.

The U.S. State Department Thursday declined to confirm or deny a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper that the Bush administration has decided to set up a diplomatic "interests section" in Tehran. The newspaper said the announcement would be made within the next month.