Merkel in Saudi after raising Iran sanctions in UAE

25th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel landed Tuesday in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah after calling for Gulf nations to help press Iran over its nuclear drive, a German official said.

Merkel flew into the Red Sea port of Jeddah for a day of meetings on bilateral and regional issues and a visit to the country's new co-educational science university.

She arrived from Abu Dhabi, where she called on the United Arab Emirates and Gulf countries to encourage a nuclear-free Iran and support Middle East peace efforts.

"When we look at the regional situation and the situation of the UAE, we can see how strong the interest for a peaceful solution in the Near East is, but also for an Iran that does not look for nuclear weapons," she told reporters.

"Gulf countries and in particular the UAE play an important role in the peace process in the Middle East and of course in relation with Iran," the German leader said.

Germany's secretary of state for the economy, Bernd Pfaffenbach, told AFP that Iran figured prominently in a meeting between Merkel and the Emirati president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

Talks in oil giant Saudi Arabia were expected to focus on similar issues when Merkel meets with King Abdullah and his court late Tuesday.

Merkel is to head first to the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Jeddah, one of the Saudi sovereign's landmark projects to help modernise his country.

Behind high walls and tight security, the world-class post-graduate research facility allows several hundred male and female students and professors from around the world to mix freely, unlike the rest of the country where ultra-strict Islamic rules force separation of the sexes.

Merkel, who arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday at the start of a four-nation tour of Arab states, will meet the Jeddah chamber of commerce on Wednesday before heading off to Qatar.

© 2010 AFP

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