Iranian leader cuts short visit to Armenia

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YEREVAN, Oct 23 (Reuters) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today unexpectedly cut short his visit to Armenia to return home, the Armenian presidential press service said.

''We have learned that the Iranian president had cancelled all his programme today because he plans to return home ahead of time,'' spokeswoman Irina Gulinyan said. She gave no further details.

Ahmadinejad was due to visit the memorial of victims of what Teheran describes as genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and address the national parliament. He was expected to leave Yerevan around 1200 IST.

The Iranian embassy could not immediately be reached for comments. Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted unidentified sources as saying that Ahmadinejad's decision was prompted by ''unexpected developments in Iran''.

On Saturday, Iran's chief negotiator Ali Larijani resigned just days before crucial talks in Rome due today with the European Union Foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Tehran's nuclear programme.

The West suspects Iran of working on its own atomic bomb and wants it to halt the nuclear programme. Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful and vows to go ahead with it.

Washington has been pressurising European allies to support a new set of UN sanctions against Iran.

Analysts say the departure of moderate Larijani reflects a rift over tactics between him and Ahmadinejad.

REUTERS ARB DS1225

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