AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit the United Arab Emirates and Oman starting this weekend for talks expected to cover Iraq and Iran’s nuclear programme, officials and press reports said Monday. ABU DHABI, May 7, 2007 (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit the United Arab Emirates and Oman starting this weekend for talks expected to cover Iraq and Iran’s nuclear programme, officials and press reports said Monday.
An Iranian presidential source told AFP Ahmadinejad is expected to visit the two countries next Sunday and Monday.
The Omani daily Al-Shabibah expected him to arrive in Muscat on Saturday for a two-day stay.
Ahmadinejad’s trip to Abu Dhabi would be the first by an Iranian president to anywhere in the UAE since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has an ongoing dispute with the UAE over three strategic Gulf islands.
The islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa were seized by Tehran after British forces left the Gulf region in 1971 and are claimed by Abu Dhabi.
But despite the row, the UAE is Iran’s top trading partner and officials often exchange visits. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was in Abu Dhabi last week.
Iran’s ambassador to the UAE Hamid Reza Asefi told the Iranian news agency IRNA on Friday that Ahmadinejad would come in response to an official invitation from President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.
Oman has consistently maintained good relations with Iran.
Al-Shabibah said Ahmadinejad and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos will discuss the “special” ties between the two countries and the situation in Iraq.
It said the Iranian leader would also “outline his country’s stand on the nuclear programme and its peaceful goals,” given concerns among Gulf Arab states about the possible environmental impact of Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran is under intense Western pressure over its nuclear programme, which the United States suspects is a cover for the pursuit of atomic weapons. Tehran insists it is for civilian purposes only.
Ahmadinejad visited Saudi Arabia in early March amid concerns there and in other Sunni-dominated Gulf Arab states about the sectarian violence pitting Iraq’s Sunni minority against members of the governing Shiite majority close to Shiite Iran.