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Secretary Reaffirms Strategic Ties with Omani Leaders

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates returned here today after a brief stop in Oman following the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.

In the secretary’s first visit to Oman, Gates met with Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id Al Said at his palace in Muscat during the day-long visit, as well as the country’s Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs Badr bin Saud bin Harib al Busaidi

The sultan and Gates had a long session talking about international issues, a senior U.S. defense official said speaking on background during the return flight home.

Iran and Iraq were the primary topics of the talks, the official said.

In Iran both leaders voiced concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, although Oman takes a more understandable tact given their proximity to Iran, just across its gulf waters. Oman has a “cordial” relationship with Iran and the two countries regularly exchange delegations. Oman and is generally opposed to sanctions, the official said.

Gates reaffirmed that, although the United States keeps all options open, it remains committed to a diplomatic solution to dismantling Iran’s nuclear program.

In Iraq, the sultan expressed support for the U.S. role and is opposed to any rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops, saying that it was very important to keep the country stable and on the current path of progress, the official said.

Gates finished the conversation by saying the United States was happy with the two country’s relations, and that the 60-year-old relationship is “enduring.”

The secretary had a 45-minute meeting with the minister responsible for defense affairs. It was the first-ever meeting of the two. The officials said that it served as a reaffirmation of the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Oman and no major issues came up.

“They are generally satisfied with the relationship, as are we,” the official said.

The United States has no permanent bases or troops stationed in Oman, although the U.S. has an access agreement to some bases and facilities there. Oman is about the size of New Mexico and is bordered on the north by the United Arab Emirates, on the northwest by Saudi Arabia and on the southwest by the Republic of Yemen. It has a population of about 3.2 million.

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Robert M. Gates

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