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Oman Denies Planning Exercises with Iran

MUSCAT, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Oman said on Wednesday it was not planning to hold joint sea manoeuvres with Iran, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.

ONA said a defence ministry source denied as baseless press reports that Oman and Iran were planning joint exercises. "There is no agreement to hold any such joint exercises," the source said.

A spokesman for Oman's Royal Navy told Reuters on Tuesday that preparations were under way for the naval exercises that would take place "soon." He did not give a date.

On Monday, Iran's navy chief Admiral Abbas Mohtaj was quoted as saying the exercises would enable Gulf countries to forge "reciprocal respect."

Iran's relations with its Gulf Arab neighbours have recently shown signs of improvement following years of open hostility and mutual suspicion.

Iran and Oman's Gulf partner the UAE are locked in a bitter dispute over the sovereignty of three small but strategically placed islands in a key Gulf shipping channel.

Earlier this year, the UAE threatened to leave the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -- which also includes Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- because it was unhappy about the pace of the rapprochement between non-Arab Iran and the Gulf Arabs.

Iran and Oman agreed last year to military and logistical cooperation, including joint military exercises.

The Islamic republic, keen on forging regional alliances to offset foreign presence in the Gulf, has tried for a decade to conduct joint military exercises with U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states, which had been wary of the war games Iranian forces regularly staged in the Gulf and the Oman Sea.


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