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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Iran and EU hold historic talks
European Commission president Romano Prodi of Italy with Iranian foreign affairs minister Kamal Kharrazi
The talks signal the revival of Iran-EU relations
By the BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Brussels

The Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, has been holding talks with European Union leaders in Brussels - the highest level meeting between Iran and EU since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The two sides discussed proposals for a trade and co-operation agreement, and the EU raised Iran's human rights situation.

The talks marked the start of a revival of relations between Iran and the West.

Mr Kharrazi's visit comes at a time when the United States still regards Iran as a pariah state, a sponsor of international terrorism.

The US Congress recently renewed sanctions against Iran for five years.

The European Union, by contrast, feels that engagement with Iran might bring about a positive development and is willing to discuss improving trade, while not missing the opportunity to criticise Tehran's human rights record.

European pragmatism

Speaking after his talks with Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, and the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Mr Kharrazi praised what he called the EU's "pragmatic approach".

Iran stands to gain better access for its exports to Europe, when the trade and co-operation agreement they discussed is signed and ratified.

Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel
Michel takes a 'pragmatic approach' to Iran
Mr Michel said he had also raised the question of human rights in Iran, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drugs and terrorism.

Mr Kharrazi denied that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and took the opportunity to blame Israel, which Iran does not recognise, for the spiralling violence in the Middle East.

The talks marked the start of a revival of relations between Iran and the West, with the European Union hoping that by engaging with it, it can encourage the reformers in the Iranian government.

The Iranian President, Mohammed Khatami, is expected to visit Belgium next spring.

See also:

29 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
11 Jan 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Britain courts pariah nations
11 Jan 00 | Media reports
Iranian media cautiously optimistic
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