Thursday, October 06, 2005

Iran Minister Tours Gulf Countries

Yahoo News:

Wed Oct 5,10:53 PM ET

Associated Press

Iran's foreign minister met with Omani officials Wednesday, part of a tour of Gulf countries to win support for his government's standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

But Manouchehr Mottaki postponed a stop in Saudi Arabia, Iran's Foreign Ministry announced. The postponement came a week after Saudi Arabia accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, but officials said it had nothing to do with that.

Iran's state-run television said it was due to "a shortage of time." Jamal Khashoggi, spokesman for the Saudi ambassador in Washington, said the visit was delayed because of scheduling problems.

Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Iraq's Shiite Muslims had gained so much power that the country was now dominated by Iran. Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr dismissed the contention Sunday, retorting that the Saudi rulers were "tyrants" who discriminated against their own Shiite minority.

Other Arab Gulf states have also expressed concern about Shiite Iran's growing influence in Iraq, where a Shiite-dominated government is in charge.

The vast majority of Muslims in the Arab world are Sunnis, but they form only 20 percent of the population in Iraq.

Mottaki said in Kuwait on Tuesday that Iran supported Arab efforts to stabilize Iraq in this "extremely sensitive phase."

In Oman, Mottaki met with Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmoud about Iran's nuclear program, Iraq and security in the Gulf.

"I came carrying a message of affection, peace and love from the new Iranian leadership to the leadership and people of Oman," Mottaki told The Associated Press after the talks.

Oman, which has long enjoyed strong ties with Iran, has said it is important that nuclear talks resume between Iran and its three European negotiating partners, Britain, France and Germany. The negotiations broke off in August after Iran resumed conversion of raw uranium into gas.

Last month, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency threatened to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. The United States has accused Iran of trying to build atomic weapons, but Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

Mottaki later flew to the United Arab Emirates. He was also to visit Qatar and Syria on the tour, which began in Kuwait and Bahrain.


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