Top Iranian Leader Ali Larijani to Meet Indian Leaders
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Top Iranian leader and Speaker of Iran's Majlis (Parliament) Ali Larijani is arriving here tomorrow 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, also a former chief negotiator for nuclear talks, 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.

Official sources said India would also be interested in knowing from Larijani the situation ahead of the eleventh election of the President of Iran, scheduled to be held in June.

Ahmadinejad is barred from standing for a third term.

Other contenders in the Presidential race include Hassan Rouhani, Representative of the Supreme Leader to the Supreme National Security Council and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Chief Staff of the President, but Larijani is seen as the most strongest candidate among them.

In December 2012, a new legislation was passed setting a minimum age of 40 and a maximum of 75 for a President. It also demands that candidates have at least a doctoral degree or its seminary equivalent, which eliminates many mid-ranking clerics.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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