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DOHA, Dec 2, (AFP): Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appealed Monday to Saudi Arabia to work with Tehran toward achieving regional “stability”, as he pressed a tour seeking rapprochement with Gulf Arab states. Zarif arrived in Doha after visits to Kuwait and Oman for meetings aimed at assuring top officials that a deal Iran secured with world powers on its disputed nuclear programme is in their interest.

During his stopover in the Omani capital Muscat, Zarif called on Saudi Arabia to jointly work with Iran to resolve regional issues. “I believe that our relations with Saudi Arabia should expand as we consider Saudi Arabia as an extremely important country in the region and the Islamic world,” Zarif told AFP on Monday. “We believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia should work together in order to promote peace and stability in the region.” Zarif also praised Oman’s role in last month’s negotiations between Iran and world powers including the United States that paved the way for the landmark nuclear deal. “We expressed our appreciation for the very central and positive role that the sultanate had played in facilitating these talks,” Zarif said after he met with Sultan Qaboos.

Later in Qatar, Zarif held talks with Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the official QNA news agency reported. They “discussed bilateral relations and means of developing them as well as matters of mutual interest,” said QNA, without giving details on the unscheduled visit. Unlike Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, locked in a decades-long rivalry with Shiite-dominated Iran, Oman maintains good relations with Tehran. Sultan Qaboos has acted as an intermediary between Western countries and the Islamic republic in the past few years. According to reports, the sultanate hosted secret talks between Iran and the United States in the lead-up to the six-month accord on Iran’s nuclear programme. World powers, Arab states of the Gulf, and Israel suspect Tehran’s nuclear ambitions include acquiring a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran vehemently denies.

The nuclear deal reached in Geneva on Nov 24 was welcomed by the Sunniruled Gulf Arab states, which have long been concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions. But the Saudi government reacted cautiously, saying the deal could mark the first step towards a comprehensive solution for Iran’s nuclear programme, “if there are good intentions”. Zarif on Monday again voiced hopes to “soon” visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose foreign minister announced during a visit to Tehran last week that his government was ready to create a joint economic commission with Iran. “I am ready to go to Saudi Arabia, but it is just a matter of being able to arrange a mutually convenient time. I will visit it soon inshallah (God willing).” Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers, meeting in Kuwait City last week, expressed hopes that the interim deal would lead to a permanent agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

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