World Bulletin/News Desk
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Tehran on Sunday on his first visit to Iran since he assumed power eight years ago.
During his two-day visit, the Kuwaiti emir will hold talks with senior Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.
Regional television stations showed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani escorting Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah to review an Iranian honour guard upon the emir's arrival in Tehran.
Rouhani, elected last year, has been trying to lead Shi'ite Muslim Iran out of years of isolation and his decision to engage with world powers in talks about Tehran's nuclear programme has been welcomed by some in the Sunni Muslim states on the other side of the Gulf.
Kuwait, home to a sizeable Shi'ite Muslim minority, is seen by some as a potential bridge between Iran and the Gulf Arab states, including the main power Saudi Arabia, with which relations remain strained, not least because of opposing stances over Syria's civil war.
The Kuwaiti emir is accompanied by a high-level delegation including First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Deputy Premier and Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdulmohsen Al-Madaj, Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh and Minister of Oil and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Ali Al-Omair.
Sheikh Sabah had visited the Shiite-majority Iran in 1979 following the Islamic revolution when he was the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
He had also visited 2003 for talks with Iranian officials in light of a planned U.S. military campaign against Iraq.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sunday he could not take up an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia to attend a conference to attend a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation later this month because the proposed dates clashed with planned nuclear negotiations with world powers.
Sheikh Sabah, a former Kuwaiti foreign minister, is described by analysts as one of the region's most active diplomats, often acting as a mediator.
The emir's visit comes at "a critical time and amid complicated changes in the region," said Ali Anayati, Iran's ambassador to Kuwait, Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported. He said the visit would start a "new chapter of bilateral cooperation".
Both leaders want to "create a safe and stable regional system based on non-interference in other countries' internal affairs," he said.
The visit follows Foreign Minister Zarif's tour of the Middle East in December after Tehran signed an interim nuclear deal with world powers. Kuwait said it hoped the deal would help regional stability and security.
Last Mod: 01 Haziran 2014, 17:53