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24 10 2007 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied having cut short a visit to Armenia
Iran president denies travel plan change amid nuclear talks
TEHRAN (Thomson Financial) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied having cut short a visit to Armenia amid negotiations in Rome on Iran's nuclear programme, on his return home from Yerevan today.

'The trip to Armenia took longer than what was scheduled before,' Ahmadinejad said quoted by the state news agency IRNA, contradicting reports from Armenia.

'This trip was due to last 22 hours but because of some visits, it became one hour and half longer than the schedule,' he said at Tehran airport, adding that the two neighbouring states were determined to boost ties and cooperation.

A diplomatic source in Yerevan told Agence France-Presse earlier that Ahmadinejad had cut short a two-day visit to Armenia due to the domestic political situation and the key talks on the Iranian nuclear issue in Rome.

Iran's new nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was in Rome for his first talks on the nuclear standoff with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Armenian presidential spokesman Viktor Sogomonian said Ahmadinejad had returned to Tehran early 'for urgent reasons' but did not elaborate.

'During meetings yesterday both presidents agreed that the president of Iran would go back to Iran earlier than expected for urgent reasons. The early end of the visit won't affect Armenian-Iranian relations,' Sogomonian said.

But Ahmadinejad's senior advisor Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi also denied the visit had been cut short, saying 'the Iranian delegation is returning to Tehran at the planned time.'

'All of the Iranian president's programme was realised as planned during the visit to Armenia,' he said.

Yesterday, Ahmadinejad praised growing economic and political cooperation between Iran and Armenia, shoring up closer ties with the ex-Soviet republic on Iran's northern border.



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Annette Melikian

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