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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Indonesia offers Iran mediation
An Iranian technician discusses nuclear technology with clergymen
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for purely civilian purposes
Indonesia's president has offered to mediate in the growing international dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made the offer during talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is on a three-day visit to Indonesia.

Speaking after talks in Jakarta, Mr Yudhoyono said he hoped the Iranian issue could be resolved peacefully.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and has valuable trade and energy deals with Iran.

Iran is coming under pressure from Western nations to curtail its nuclear activities.

Diplomatic efforts

The authorities in Tehran claim these are purely peaceful, but the US fears they are aimed at developing weapons.

Washington has pushed for a resolution to be adopted under the terms of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.

These are binding on all UN members, but do not automatically lead to sanctions or military action. Further decisions would be needed for such measures.

US President George W Bush received an 18-page letter from Mr Ahmadinejad on Monday, attacking the US invasion of Iraq and urging Mr Bush to return to religious principles.

But Washington shrugged off the letter, saying it was a move to divert attention from the nuclear issue.

Energy deals

The main purpose of Mr Ahmadinejad's visit is meant to be the development of economic ties between Iran and Indonesia.

Iran is investing billions of dollars in Indonesia's oil and gas sector, and both nations are eager to boost trade.

Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr Yudhoyono are expected to sign several agreements during the visit, including a deal to develop an oil refinery on Java island.

But the encroaching nuclear crisis is also thought to be high on the agenda for discussion.

"We want Iran to be more transparent in its programme," Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told reporters ahead of the visit.

But he added that developing nuclear energy was "a basic right for every country".

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said previously that his country could "play the role of a middleman" between Iran and the West.

But analysts say the authorities in Jakarta are unlikely to push Mr Ahmadinejad very hard on the topic, stuck as they are between trying to appease Europe and US while remaining anxious not to offend Indonesia's overwhelming Muslim majority.

After discussions with Mr Yudhoyono, Mr Ahmadinejad will hold talks with religious, political and business leaders in Jakarta, before flying to Bali on Friday, to attend a meeting of the Developing-8 (D-8) group of large Muslim countries.

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