Austrian president's visit in Iran stirs hope of EU rapprochement


Iran's nuclear deal with six world powers can be the basis for a new era of co-operation with Austria, the European Union and the world, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday as his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer visited him in Tehran.

Fischer is the first Western head of state to travel the Islamic republic in more than 11 years, a period that was marked by mounting tension over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme. He was also set to meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Austria hosted the final stretch of the nuclear talks between Iran and the group of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in Vienna.

The recent nuclear deal that requires Iran to curb its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief would "open a new page in the book of history," Fischer said. "The message of the nuclear agreement in Vienna was peace, friendship and dialogue," Rouhani said.

The Austrian politician was accompanied by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Vice Chancellor and Economic Affairs Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner, as well as no fewer than 240 business delegates.

Austria hopes that the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal will open lucrative business opportunities in the populous Islamic republic. Tehran and Vienna plan to increase their current trade volume of 232 million euros (259 million dollars) five-fold in the next five years. While Fischer said he spoke out against Iran's high number of executions when he met Rouhani, Kurz criticised Iran's threats against Israel.   (dpa)

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