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Italy FM starts Iran visit on rare EU mission
Published Saturday 21/12/2013 (updated) 22/12/2013 17:45
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Emma Bonino (right) greets Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif
before a bilateral meeting in on Nov. 19, 2013 at the Foreign Ministry
in Rome (AFP/File Andreas Solaro)
TEHRAN (AFP) -- Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino arrived in Tehran Saturday for two days of talks, on a rare visit by a senior European official to the Islamic republic, Iranian media said.

Leading a high-ranking delegation, Bonino is to meet her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, the official IRNA news agency said.

This is the first time in nearly 10 years that an Italian foreign minister travels to Iran and follows a trip by Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli in August, shortly after Rouhani's inauguration.

The visit comes nearly a month after a landmark agreement between Iran and world powers over Tehran's controversial nuclear program, with Iran rolling back and freezing part of its drive in return for limited sanctions relief.

Italy has supported the diplomatic progress, and Zarif met Bonino in Rome last month.

Bonino's visit also comes after a meeting in Vienna this month between Paolo Scaroni, the head of Italian energy major ENI, and Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

The two discussed "potential new activities" in Iran subject to the lifting of sanctions -- something that can only happen under a comprehensive nuclear deal yet to be negotiated.

Years of US and EU sanctions have more than halved Iran's oil sales and crippled its economy.
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