February 14, 2017 / 6:47 AM / 10 months ago

Iran's Rouhani to visit Oman and Kuwait

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will visit Oman and Kuwait on Wednesday, state media reported, in his first visit to the Gulf Arab states since taking power in 2013.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani presides over a meeting of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, in Tehran, Iran February 7, 2017. President.ir/Handout via REUTERS

Rouhani will leave Tehran for Muscat on Wednesday to meet Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, Rouhani’s deputy chief of staff for communications, Parviz Esmaeili, was quoted as saying on Monday by state-run Press TV.

He will depart on the same day to Kuwait on invitation of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

Kuwait’s foreign minister paid a rare visit to Tehran late in January to deliver a message to Rouhani on a “basis of dialogue” between Gulf Arab states and arch-rival Iran.

The six Arab members of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), especially Saudi Arabia, accuse Tehran of using sectarianism to interfere in Arab countries and build its own sphere of influence in the Middle East. Iran denies the accusations.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in January 2016 cut diplomatic relations with Iran and some other Gulf states recalled their ambassadors in solidarity with the oil-rich kingdom after its embassy in Iran was torched by protesters.

Oman has traditionally resisted Gulf Arab states’ efforts to close ranks against Iran. It helped to mediate secret U.S.-Iran talks in 2013 that led to the historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later.

Rouhani said in January that at least 10 countries including Kuwait have offered to mediate in the escalating feud between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Michael Perry

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