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President Heinz Fischer may visit Iran

By Maddy French

Austria's President Heinz Fischer could be the first Western leader to visit Iran since the election there in June last year, after he received an invitation from the country.

Fischer has not announced yet whether he will take up the invitation although a spokesperson confirmed that it had been received.

The relationship between Western countries and Iran has edged towards reconciliation recently after Iran agreed towards the end of last year to pause their nuclear programme in return for some sanctions against the country being lifted.

Negotiations have begun this week in Vienna to see if Iran and the West can come to an longer term agreement over the Middle East country's nuclear programme, seen by many Western countries as a cover for the development of nuclear weaponry.

The invitation follows a visit to Iranian capital Tehran made by a consortium of Austrian business leaders in December 2013. The trip sparked criticism from the US government, who visited Austria following the business trip to voice their concerns.

If Fischer decides to visit, the move could stir up further animosity from the Obama administration who do not want to see countries and businesses ignoring the sanctions still in place against Iran. The US recently warned France, who have also sent business leaders to Tehran since the reprieve was announced, that they would be punished if they violate the sanctions still in place against the country.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has also been invited to visit Iran, who contacted Austria after the coalition took power again in September. Kurz has not decided whether he will visit the country.

"This would obviously depend on the way the talks are progressing with Iran," one diplomatic source said.

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