Bishop to tackle asylum seekers

AUSTRALIAN Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is visiting Iran to discuss the return of failed asylum seekers, but the rare trip also has a deeper significance as the West seeks to seal a deal to rein in the Islamic state’s nuclear ambitions.

Ms Bishop chose to comply with local morality laws as she donned a headscarf during the visit, arriving in Tehran on Saturday morning.

The first visit to Shiite Iran by an Australian foreign minister in 12 years follows the framework political agreement reached last month under which Tehran would accept strict nuclear controls in return for the easing of damaging economic sanctions.

Canberra welcomed the progress towards a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear program in the Lausanne talks between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.

Ms Bishop said the framework was an “important step towards a final agreement, which will address international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program”, but noted many details remain to be addressed, with a final accord due by June 30.

The statement said she would discuss the nuclear issue and other important concerns with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian leaders on April 18.

The Australian newspaper on Friday stressed the “great significance of the rare visit” not only on the nuclear front but also with Iran “crucial to hopes of turning back the Islamic State” group, as the Sunni extremists seek to dominate the Middle East.

“The portents for Ms Bishop’s visit are promising. Iran is playing a pivotal role in mobilising Shia militia forces, helping the Iraqi army fight Islamic State,” the daily said in an editorial.

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