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Heinz Fischer in principle accepts Iran invite

The office of Austrian President Heinz Fischer has 'in principle' accepted the invitation  to visit Iran that he received in February from the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

"The invitation from the Iranian side has been accepted in principle but no date has been set," a spokesperson from the President's office has said.

If the visit goes ahead then it will the first time a Western head of state has visited the country and its leaders since 2004.

Visits from Western leaders to the Islamic state occur rarely because of economic and business sanctions that have historically been imposed on the country by the United States and Europe in response to concerns that Iran has been developing a nuclear weapons programme.

The tense relationship between Iran and the West relaxed somewhat towards the end of last year when Iran agreed to halt it's nuclear programme, which it claims is not related to weapon development, in return for the West relaxing some of the sanctions for six months.

The US and Europe complied with the lifting of some sanctions and negotiations have now been taking place in Vienna between the countries over a more long term agreement.

President Fischer's acceptance of the invitation would likely anger the US who do not want European countries to develop close ties with Iran. Officials from the States have already visited Vienna to express their concern that a consortium of Austrian business leaders had visited the Iranian capital Tehran in December.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has confirmed he is due to visit Iran this month where he plans to discuss both human rights abuses in the country and Iran's nuclear programme. A visit to Iran's enemy Israel is also planned for the same month.

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