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Rabin makes secret visit to Oman

JERUSALEM, Dec. 26 -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made a secret trip Monday to the Sultanate of Oman, the first public visit by an Israeli premier to the oil-rich Gulf nation, broadcast reports said. State-run Israel radio and television stations both reported that Rabin traveled to Muscat directly on an Israeli Air Force jet and met with Sultan Qabus bin Said.

He was accompanied by his top military advisor, Gen. Danny Yatom, and several of his closest aides. Rabin and Qabus dined together and chatted late into the evening before the Israeli prime minister flew back home, the reports said. He was to arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport in the early morning hours. Rabin's visit was not the first by an Israeli official. Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin traveled to Muscat in the fall as head of the Israeli delegation to multilateral Middle East peace talks. Oman has been somewhat the maverick among its Gulf neighbors in warming up to Israel, officially an enemy state for the last half- century. Omani government and business leaders met openly with Israeli counterparts in October at the regional economic summit in Casablanca, Morocco. Though full diplomatic ties are still some way down the road, the two governments are discussing the opening of interest offices in each other's countries. Oman also sent a delegation to the October ceremony in which Israel and Jordan signed their historic peace treaty.

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