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The West is hoping for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran.



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The West is hoping for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with Iran.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan began meeting with Iranian leaders Saturday to press them to help cut off weapons shipments to Iran's Lebanese ally Hezbollah and to compromise in its nuclear confrontation with the West.

The visit came two days after Iran ignored a U.N. Security Council deadline for the Tehran government to suspend uranium enrichment, paving the way to possible sanctions over the West's suspicions the Islamic republic is trying to develop atomic weapons.

The Europe Union is pursuing a last-ditch attempt at negotiations with Iran this week, and Annan said in a newspaper interview before arriving that he hoped for a diplomatic solution that would "avoid another conflict in a region already subjected to a great stress at this moment."

The tone from Annan's first talks was positive. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said that his meeting with the U.N. chief was "constructive" and that "both sides agreed that problems should be solved through negotiations."

Backs cease-fire

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki expressed Iranian backing for the U.N. cease-fire resolution in Lebanon, which calls for halting the flow of weapons to Hezbollah -- though he did not directly address that issue.

There was no immediate comment from Annan or other U.N. officials on what was discussed.

Just before Annan's arrival in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Iran would forge ahead with its nuclear program despite U.S. pressure, state-run television reported.

Annan planned to meet with Ahmadinejad today.

Asked about indications the United States wanted to move quickly on sanctions, Annan told the French daily Le Monde, "I do not believe that sanctions are the solution to all problems."

"There are moments when a bit of patience produces lots of effects. I think that is a quality we must exercise more often," he said in the interview published Saturday.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, plans to meet early in the week with Larijani.

After an EU foreign ministers meeting in Finland, the bloc said there was no deadline for the talks but warned it would not give Iran much time to resolve the standoff.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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