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Saudi says to sign security pact with Iran soon

DUBAI, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's interior minister, Prince Nayef, was quoted on Monday as saying he expected to visit Iran soon to sign a security pact, a fresh sign of warming ties between the regional powers following years of mistrust.

Prince Nayef told the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that a date for his visit to Tehran would be set when he had finished studying the final text of the pact, to which both countries have made some amendments.

He did not say what the amendments were, but said the pact was aimed at fighting crime, terrorism and drug trafficking and should not be seen as a regional defence pact.

"I have not looked at the final text of the agreement after it was amended...I will start today looking at it and in the light of that, the date for my visit to Tehran will be set to sign the agreement," he said.

"The agreement is now ready in its final format...It is a pure security pact...and should not be confused with any agreement of a military nature," he added.

"Contact and coordination with the brothers in Iran will take place very soon to agree on a date for my visit," he said.

Gulf officials say security pacts between Gulf Arab states and non-Arab Iran focus on fighting crime and are unlikely to lead to defence accords.

Iran and some of its Gulf neighbours have been pursuing rapprochement after years of mutual suspicion that followed the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

But they remain divided over the U.S. military presence in the Gulf and the territorial dispute between the United Arab Emirates and Iran over three Gulf islands held by Iran but also claimed by the UAE.

Saudi Arabia has moved faster than some other Gulf Arab states in improving ties with Iran. The two countries are top world oil producers.

Asharq al-Awsat quoted Prince Nayef as saying that during meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials "the points of view were in harmony regarding building bridges of trust for solid cooperation between our countries."

Iran opposes the deployment of U.S. and Western forces in the region and is keen to sign joint defence pacts with its neighbours. But Gulf Arab states, which look to the West for military support, have declined Iran's offer.

Iran is a major route for drug trafficking from Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan to Gulf Arab states and Europe.


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