Top Iranian leader Ali Larijani to meet Indian leaders



New Delhi: Top Iranian leader and Speaker of Iran's Majlis (Parliament) Ali Larijani is arriving here on Tuesday for discussions with the Indian leadership at a time when world's focus is on its contentious nuclear programme.

Larijani, seen as a strong contender for Presidentship to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be here on a three-day visit at the invitation of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and is expected to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Coinciding with Iran's meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council- US, UK, France, Russia, China- and Germany (P5+1) tomorrow in Kazakhstan, the Iranian leader is expected to brief Indian leaders on Tehran's stand on nuclear programme.

While Iran has been maintaining that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, the Western countries doubt Tehran's intention and have imposed heavy financial sanctions to bring it to the negotiating table.

India is expected to reiterate its stand that Iran should fulfil its international obligations and has always maintained that the issues between Tehran and six world powers should be resolved through talks.

According to official sources, India will also "sensitise" Larijani about the issues involved while making oil payments in view of heavy financial sanctions against Tehran. They said India will push for increased exports from here to enhance the "barter system". India has been pushing for export of wheat and tea.

With loss of another payment route, through Euro, for Iranian oil in wake of tougher sanctions, India is paying Iran only in rupees and trying to convince it to use the currency to buy more non-sanctioned goods and services from it.

Turkey's Halkbank had been handling payments for Iranian oil in euros from India since July 2011 after other payment options in US Dollars were out but with the latest US sanctions, even this has been choked.

India had been paying through Halkbank about 45 per cent of its oil bill from Iran since April 2012 and rest in rupees. India's total exports to Iran in April-September 2012 amounted to USD 1.4 billion, a quarter of the value of its imports from Iran during the period, according to Indian government data.

PTI