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Iran's Zarif stretches Gulf trip to include UAE

AFP , Tuesday 3 Dec 2013
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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a tour of Gulf states, will visit the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, he wrote on his Facebook page.

"Following the visit last week of the UAE's foreign minister to Tehran, tomorrow I will go to the Emirates and will have meetings with the high-ranking officials ... in Dubai and Abu Dhabi," Zarif said in his Tuesday post.

Zarif has since Sunday been on a tour of Kuwait, Oman and Qatar trying to persuade the Gulf states that a deal between Iran and Western powers on Tehran's nuclear programme will enhance regional stability.

The Emirates, which hosts a major Iranian expatriate community, was the first among Gulf nations to welcome the landmark deal clinched in Geneva on 24 November.

Gulf monarchies, like many Western powers, fear that Iran may ultimately develop nuclear weapons under cover of its disputed nuclear programme.

Also likely to be discussed during Zarif's visit is the touchy issue of the sovereignty of Abu Musa and two other islands in the southern Gulf.

The three islands are under Iranian control but are claimed by the UAE.

Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that a visit by Zarif to Saudi Arabia, at odds with Iran over several issues including Tehran's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was "on the agenda" and would happen at "the right time".

Zarif also wrote in his Facebook post that he was ready for negotiations with Saudi Arabia whenever Riyadh was ready and added that talks would be "beneficial for both countries, the region and the Muslim world".

After his visit to the UAE, Zarif is due to return to Tehran to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is due to start a two-day visit to Iran on Wednesday.

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