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Iran says Arabs back its stand in nuclear row

Written by: Staff

ALGIERS, June 12 (Reuters) Iran's chief negotiator today said Tehran was winning Arab sympathy in its standoff with world powers over its nuclear programme.

Ali Larijani made the remark during a visit to Algeria, following a trip to Egypt on Sunday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League head Amr Moussa.

The West suspects Iran's atomic programme aims to produce nuclear weapons. Iran, which says its programme is purely for civilian use, has long been striving to persuade Arab states that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

''My trip, which included Egypt, Algeria and other neighbouring countries, is aimed at boosting dialogue over issues that interest both Iran and Arab countries,'' Larijani told a news conference after talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

''I confirm that Arab countries support Iran's position over the nuclear issue. I noticed this point during my meeting with the Arab League chief.'' Larijani said without elaborating that he had also recently visited Yemen.

The nuclear dispute intensified in February when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) referred Tehran to the UN Security Council over its history of hiding atomic research and obstructing IAEA investigations.

Last week the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China offered Iran incentives to stop making nuclear fuel. Tehran has repeatedly vowed to pursue such work.

Larijani, who heads Iran's Supreme National Security Council which has been entrusted with handling nuclear talks, said Iran was ready to explain its position to allay any worries among neighbouring Gulf countries.

''We are indeed willing to explain and shed light on our programme to ease the Gulf countries' concerns. They are neighbours and we love them.'' REUTERS SY ND2226

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