Reuters: Qatar’s prime minister began talks in Iran on Tuesday, the second visit in 10 days by a Gulf Arab premier at a time when the United States is pressing countries in the region to isolate the Islamic Republic. TEHRAN (Reuters) – Qatar’s prime minister began talks in Iran on Tuesday, the second visit in 10 days by a Gulf Arab premier at a time when the United States is pressing countries in the region to isolate the Islamic Republic.
The United States wants its Gulf Arab allies, including Qatar, to cut trade and other ties with Iran, which Washington accuses of seeking to build nuclear bombs.
Tehran denies the charge and has been mounting its own diplomatic offensive to boost ties with Gulf Arabs, mostly Sunni Muslim countries which have traditionally been suspicious of the majority Shi’ite Muslim Iran’s intentions in the region.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani met Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on arriving for a two-day visit and was to hold talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad later, Iranian media said without giving details.
The visit follows a trip on February 18 by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is the also the ruler of the regional commercial hub Dubai. The two sides discussed trade ties on that visit.
Sheikh Hamad’s visit comes in the same week Stuart Levey, U.S. undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is to visit Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE to build support for a U.S. campaign to increase pressure on Iran.
Washington has slapped sanctions on major Iranian state banks against which it has leveled charges such as financing terrorist organizations and supporting Iran’s bid to build nuclear weapons. It is seeking a third set of U.N. sanctions.
Iran and Qatar are both members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, but Qatar is only a small oil producer while Iran is the world’s fourth largest.
The two countries also straddle a huge gas field in the Gulf, which Iran has been slow to exploit while Qatar is now the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Iran and Qatar have the world’s second and third largest natural gas reserves, respectively.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Keith Weir)