Gates in Abu Dhabi with US focus on Iran

  • AFP, Abu Dhabi
  • |
  • Updated: Mar 11, 2010 14:58 IST

UGates in Abu Dhabi with US focus on IranS Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday as Washington sought support from oil-rich Gulf allies to build pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme.

The visit came a day after Gates appealed to Saudi leaders to back a US-led drive for crippling sanctions against Iran in a visit to Riyadh.

In his talks in Abu Dhabi, Gates planned to discuss efforts to tighten pressure on Tehran, including measures against some Iranian firms doing business in the United Arab Emirates, a US defence official told reporters.

The UAE has a large Iranian expatriate community and is a major conduit for Iran's trade with the outside world.

Gates was expected to focus on how "to increase pressure" on the Iranian firms, amid a US-led campaign for fresh UN financial sanctions on the Islamic republic.

He met King Abdullah and the Saudi crown prince on Wednesday as part of President Barack Obama's diplomatic bid for punitive sanctions, hoping oil-rich Gulf states could exert influence amid opposition from China.

Gates told the Saudis that after Iran had "largely rebuffed" conciliatory US overtures for dialogue, the Obama administration was now focused on ramping up pressure on Tehran, the official said.

The Pentagon chief also would focus on a broader US effort to boost air and missile defences in the Gulf in the face of Iran's growing arsenal of ballistic missiles, a serious concern for Abu Dhabi, the official said.

The United States has promised to speed up weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states, which have bought billions of dollars worth of American weapons in recent years.

US officials believe the arms buildup in the Gulf sends a clear signal to Iran that its nuclear and missile programmes are counter-productive.

"It's not lost on the Iranians, all the security cooperation that's been going on for years now," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said earlier.

The UAE in the past two years has been the leading buyer of US weaponry, purchasing 17 billion dollars' worth, including Patriot missile defence batteries and an advanced anti-missile system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD.

The UAE has also bought 80 F-16 fighter jets and participated in US air force exercises in Nevada last year.


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