DUBAI May 20 Kuwait's ruling emir will visit
Iran at the end of the month to help turn a "new page" in
bilateral ties, Iran's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, in the
latest sign that Tehran seeks to improve relations with its Arab
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah will visit Iran on May
31-June 1 at the invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani,
a foreign ministry spokeswoman said. The trip will be his first
to Iran since becoming emir in 2006.
Kuwait, home to a sizeable Shi'ite Muslim minority, is seen
by some as a potential bridge between Shi'ite power Iran and
more wary and sometimes hostile Sunni Muslim Gulf countries,
such as Saudi Arabia.
The visit "will usher in a new page of Kuwait-Iran
relations," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told a
televised news conference in Tehran. The office of Kuwait's emir
has not confirmed the trip.
Sheikh Sabah, a former foreign minister, is often described
by analysts as one of the region's most important diplomats,
often acting as a mediator and peacemaker.
He has maintained good ties with Iran, directly across the
Gulf waterway, as well as with Kuwait's large neighbours Saudi
Arabia and Iraq.
Iran's Rouhani, a relative moderate elected last year, has
repeatedly vowed to improve relations with neighbouring
The planned meeting follows Iranian Foreign Minister Javad
Zarif's tour of the Middle East in December after Tehran signed
an interim nuclear deal with world powers.
Kuwait welcomed the agreement, saying it hoped it would help
to preserve stability and security in the region.
Saudi Arabia is a leading backer of rebels fighting Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad, who is a close ally of Iran, which
the kingdom believes to be one of its biggest threats.
Afkham also said an Iranian visit to Saudi Arabia was on the
"agenda" but did not specify an exact date or participation.
(Reporting by Michelle Moghtader; Editing by Sylvia Westall and