NATO missile defence not aimed against Iran, Turkey says

NATO missile defence not aimed against Iran, Turkey says

The missile defence shield that NATO is developing under strong encouragement from the United States is not aimed against Iran, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted on Wednesday, dpa reported.

The European Union and the US suspect that Iran's nuclear programme is designed to produce a nuclear weapon, and are tightening sanctions against the country in response. Iran insists that its programme is peaceful.

Davutoglu, whose country is an important member of NATO, said the alliance's missile defence was "a purely defensive system and there is no target country or target region."

"It is not an issue between Turkey and Iran or between Turkey and any other neighbour," he said after talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels with the alliance's ambassadors and Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Turkey has agreed to host a radar system as part of NATO's missile defence, a decision that Iran has criticized.

Iran has also reacted to growing international pressure by threatening to block naval traffic across the Strait of Hormuz, threatening a vital international oil route in the Persian Gulf.

"Iranian authorities have a duty to act" under international law not to let that happen, Rasmussen said. But NATO "has no plans of intervention" if the advice is not followed, he said.

US officials have in the past contradicted Davutoglu's assurances, specifically singling out Iran as a threat to which NATO missile defence was specifically responding to.

Davutoglu also said he would meet his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi on Thursday in Turkey to discuss with him the possible restarting of international talks on the nuclear issue.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the international community on the issue, was informed, Davutoglu told reporters.

While it was "up to both sides to decide" the restart of talks, "as Turkey we will be happy to host this new round of talks," the minister said.

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