Iran president to visit Saudi Arabia

March 1, 2007 at 11:12 AM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 1 (UPI) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will visit Saudi Arabia Saturday in an effort to ease pressure on Tehran's nuclear program.

Diplomatic sources in Riyadh said Thursday Ahmedinejad is due for a brief visit to talk to Saudi King Abdullah about "developments in the region, especially Iran's peaceful nuclear issue."

The visit comes amid growing fears by neighboring Arab Gulf countries that growing Western pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program and uranium enrichment might lead to a military confrontation with the United States.

Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, has taken the lead role in trying to ease this tension to avert military operations that might get the Arabs caught in the crossfire, Arab officials say.

The diplomats said the talks between the Iranian and Saudi leaders will also focus on the political crisis in Lebanon, where Iran backs the Shiite Hezbollah-led opposition movement against the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora -- a government that Riyadh also supports.

They expected the Iranian-Saudi "dialogue," which also deals with Tehran's influence in war-torn Iraq, could lead to easing of Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions in Iraq and Lebanon before they spill over to the rest of the largely Muslim Arab world.

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