Italian minister visits Iran seeking better ties

Italy's foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Tuesday, the latest in a series of European officials seeking closer economic and political ties with Iran after its nuclear agreement with world powers.

Senior government ministers from France, Germany and Serbia have been among visitors to Iran since the July 14 accord which raised the prospect of banking and trade sanctions on Iran being lifted, perhaps around the end of this year.

Before his visit to Iran, minister Paolo Gentiloni was quoted by the Iranian Mehr news agency as saying: "Italy's economic ties with Iran have definitely suffered during the sanctions era, but the recent nuclear agreement will serve as an opportunity for a gradual improvement in the two countries' relations."

Gentiloni was accompanied by Italian Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi and an economic delegation. Both countries hope to expand cooperation in energy, transportation and agriculture.

The nuclear accord provided for an easing of sanctions in return for restrictions and monitoring of Iran's nuclear programme. Western powers have suspected Iran of secretly pursuing nuclear weapons while Tehran says its programme was geared purely to peaceful purposes such as power generation.
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