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Bilateral ties on agenda as Iran's Rouhani to visit Oman

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected in Muscat for a two-day visit starting Wednesday during which he will discuss bilateral cooperation and regional tensions with Oman's leader, Tehran's envoy announced.

Tehran enjoys good relations with Muscat but is locked in a decades-long rivalry with Saudi Arabia while other Gulf states are wary of the ambitions of their neighbour across the water.

In his first visit to a Gulf Arab state since his election last year, Rouhani will discuss "means of strengthening bilateral relations" as well as "security and stability" in the region, Tehran's ambassador in Muscat, Ali Akbar Sibeveih, said on Monday.

He will also discuss the "Syrian crisis and ways of peacefully resolving it," he added.

Rouhani's visit comes against a backdrop of mounting internal tension among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Oman.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates last week withdrew their envoys from Doha, accusing the gas-rich emirate of meddling in their internal affairs and backing Islamists.

Sibeveih declined to comment on the row, telling reporters in Muscat that "these are internal GCC affairs".

"We hope people and countries in the region can live together in peace, security, and consensus," he said.

Oman has so far not reacted to the latest developments in the Gulf.

Sultan Qaboos, who maintains historically good relations with Tehran, visited Iran in August for a visit focused on economic and diplomatic issues.

Qaboos has acted as an intermediary between Western countries and the Islamic republic.

The sultanate is reported to have hosted secret talks between Iran and the United States ahead of the signing in Geneva last November of an accord between world powers and Iran on its nuclear programme.

World powers along with Arab states in the Gulf and Israel suspect Tehran's nuclear ambitions include acquiring a nuclear weapon, a charge it vehemently denies.

Rouhani is the second Iranian leader to visit Oman since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. His hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the sultanate in 2007.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140310/bilateral-ties-agenda-irans-rouhani-visit-oman