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Iran dials after Sharon sting

New Delhi, Sept. 11: Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharazi today rang up his Indian counterpart, the day after visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described Iran as the “centre of world terror” and expressed concern over Delhi’s growing ties with Tehran.

Kharazi discussed with Yashwant Sinha the developments in the region, including the world’s response to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Tehran is under growing pressure from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world watchdog on nuclear proliferation, to come clean on its alleged secret nuclear weapons programme. Iran’s time will run out this Saturday when the Vienna-based agency will vote on steps to be taken against the country. The UN security council could slap economic and other sanctions on Tehran if it fails to satisfy the agency.

Kharazi had visited India last month to drum up support among key world players to ensure the US and the agency did not isolate Tehran over the nuclear issue. Iran has been accused of developing a nuclear bomb in violation of its obligation under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Tehran is under pressure to accept a protocol which would allow agency inspectors to visit the country for a random check on its nuclear programme.

Kharazi’s call is especially significant because it follows Sharon’s concerns over Iran voiced during his discussions with the Indian leadership on his state visit. The Israeli Prime Minister had sought Delhi’s assurance that sensitive technology handed by Tel Aviv would not be passed on to Tehran and India agreed.

Today’s brief foreign ministry statement, however, was just that as it only emphasised the call “initiated by Kharazi” and talked of developments in the atomic energy agency on Iran’s nuclear programme and Sinha’s assurance that both countries would be in touch on the issue.

Though Tehran claims its nuclear programme is peaceful, evidence gathered by the agency suggests Iran is secretly pursuing a nuclear bomb project. It has already test-fired long-range missiles which, among other countries, could target Israel.

Tel Aviv has accused Tehran of supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, outfits which are engaged in violence in Israel.

While Sharon and his team raised Delhi’s growing ties with Tehran more than once, India clarified that its relations with both countries were on different planes. “There is no question of dumping Iran to please Israel,” a senior foreign ministry official said. He emphasised that no country followed a policy of dumping an ally to please another and clarified the Indian stand was clearly conveyed to Sharon.

Delhi and Tehran have been cooperating in the energy sector and working jointly on developing infrastructure to ensure better access of products to Central Asia and Afghanistan.

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