Spanish PM due in Tehran Saturday on Official Visit
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar is to arrive in Tehran this weekend on a two-day official visit, the first by a Spanish government leader since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, a Spanish diplomat said Thursday.
Aznar, who will be accompanied a delegation that includes 80 businessmen, will be traveling from Seoul, where he is to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting of heads of state.
During his visit, which will include a meeting with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and a visit to the city of Isfahan, Aznar will discuss political issues, as well as economic, trade and cultural cooperation.
On the political front, there will be the chance for an "open dialogue" on tensions in the Middle East, the diplomat said. Madrid has long pushed for a resolution to the Palestinian question, while Tehran, which does not recognize Israel, totally opposed to the peace process, the diplomat said.
The diplomat was non-comittal when asked whether Aznar will raise the question of three Israeli soldiers captured by Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon earlier this month.
On Oct 8, a day after the incident, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said the United States had asked Spain and France to intervene with Iran on behalf of the three soldiers.
Pique said the request had come from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said she hoped Paris and Madrid would ask Iran to act as a mediator with representatives of Hizbollah in an effort to free the soldiers.
Meanwhile, on the cultural front, Aznar will inaugurate an exposition of 100 engravings by the late 20th century Spanish artist, Joan Miro.
He will also give the opening address at a seminar on economic issues.
Spain is Irans's fourth-largest trading partner, though trade dropped from 1.07 billion dollars in 1997 to only 768 million last year, 70 percent of which was Spanish purchases of Iranian oil.
A number of Spanish banks are active in Iran, as well as nearly a dozen industrial firms.
Spain's principal exports to Iran are machine tools, chemical products, steel and automobiles – TEHRAN (AFP)
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