Iran General NewsClinton to head back to Gulf as Iran talks...

Clinton to head back to Gulf as Iran talks loom

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Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit several key Gulf allies beginning on Saturday, seeking to buttress U.S. ties in an oil-rich region shadowed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

WASHINGTON Jan 6 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit several key Gulf allies beginning on Saturday, seeking to buttress U.S. ties in an oil-rich region shadowed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Clinton’s trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar from Jan 8-13 will be her second to the Gulf in two months, highlighting U.S. concern over a region central to U.S. energy interests.

“At each stop, Secretary Clinton will consult with government officials on a full range of regional and bilateral issues,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement on Thursday.

Clinton is also expected to use the trip to attempt further damage control after the Wikileaks release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, some of which embarrassed leaders in Gulf countries and next-door Saudi Arabia by detailing their hopes for a tough U.S. stance on Iran.

Clinton’s trip comes just days ahead of an expected second round of talks between Iran and six major powers over its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but which the United States and its allies fear is aimed at acquiring atomic weapons.

The United States has hailed the United Arab Emirates for signing a civilian nuclear power cooperation deal, which Washington says could be a model for other countries seeking to benefit from nuclear power without increasing nuclear proliferation risks.

Iran is also expected to feature in Clinton’s talks in Oman, which used its good ties with Tehran to negotiate the release of one of three U.S. hikers accused of espionage and is pushing for the release of the other two.

Clinton will take part in a conference in Qatar, which is seeking to expand its role as a regional diplomatic troubleshooter.

The conference will include officials and civil society representatives from 19 regional countries, giving Clinton the opportunity to touch base with a broad range of leaders on Iran as well as faltering efforts to relaunch peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. (reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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