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Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 10:06 UK

US Gulf envoy makes first visit

Iranian technician works at Bushehr nuclear plant, 25 February 2009
Iran says it is developing nuclear power for civilian purposes

US President Barack Obama's envoy to the Gulf states, Dennis Ross, has begun his first trip to the region.

He is due to visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt.

The State Department said Mr Ross would hold talks on "issues of mutual and regional concern".

Correspondents say building a united diplomatic front to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear programme is likely to top the agenda.

Iran denies accusations that it is trying to develop a nuclear bomb.

Engagement

Last week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Iran faced "very tough sanctions" if it rejected offers of engagement over the issue.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he will present a new package for discussion, but has yet to give details.

Earlier this month, the six powers co-ordinating policy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions urged the Iranians to engage in fresh talks on a diplomatic solution.

The Obama administration has adopted a new policy of engagement, but is seeking to back it up with harsher sanctions.

Correspondents say Mr Ross will be seeking to shore up support from the mainly Sunni Muslim Gulf states, which are opposed to predominantly Shia Iran becoming a nuclear power.



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