Queen Elizabeth II meets Sultan Qaboos in Oman

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II met Sultan Qaboos on Friday during a visit to Muscat marking the 40th anniversary of his rule, on her second and final leg of a Gulf tour.

Dressed in light pink with a white bag, gloves and shoes, the 84-year-old monarch who arrived from a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, to the sultan's Al-Alam Palace.

Omani artillery fired a 21-gun salute to the queen upon her arrival at the palace, Oman's official ONA news agency reported,

The sultan, the queen and Prince Philip discussed "the historical relations binding the two friendly countries (and) aspects of the existing close cooperation between the two sides in all fields," it said.

The visit "is an opportunity to celebrate our thriving relationship" with Oman "which has been transformed since her Majesty last visited in 1979 ... and to look forward to even stronger ties," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement posted on the embassy's website.

"The new British government recognises that the Middle East is a region of great opportunity and promise, despite facing some considerable challenges that we are working to address with our partners in the region," said Hague, who also accompanied the queen on the Gulf tour.

"This ... explains why we have set out to elevate our links with Oman and our other important partners in the Gulf."

He said that Britain wanted to boost cooperation in trade, education, energy security, defence and foreign policy with the Arab countries of the oil-rich Gulf.

Oman has a history of close economic and military relations with Britain.

During the UAE visit, Hague signed a number of agreements with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, including an accord on "civil nuclear cooperation," the Emirati state news agency WAM said Thursday.


© 2010 AFP

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