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Cablegate: Mottaki Visit to Bahrain

VZCZCXRO0308
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMK #1119 3611350
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 271350Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7508
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T MANAMA 001119

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/27/2017
TAGS: PREL KNNP EPET IR BA
SUBJECT: MOTTAKI VISIT TO BAHRAIN

REF: A. MANAMA 1045
B. MANAMA 922

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(S) Summary: The Iranian Foreign Minister led a joint political and economic delegation to Bahrain, and met the Bahraini Crown Prince and Foreign Minister. He failed to obtain a relaxation of Bahrain's visa regime for Iranians. The Crown Prince and Foreign Minister told him that Iran must address the international community's concerns about its nuclear program. The GOB remained suspicious of Iranian interest in expanding business and banking ties. End summary.

2.(S) Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Manama December 25 and 26 for a meeting of the two countries' binational commission. He also met with Crown Prince Salman and Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa.

3.(C) In a meeting with poloff December 27, MFA bilateral affairs director Dhafer Al-Umran said that this week's FM Mottaki visit was in many ways a replay of President Ahmedinejad's visit in November (ref A). He said that Mottaki pressed hard for Memoranda of Understanding in a number of areas. In the end, the two sides signed "minutes" of the joint committee meeting. According to Al-Umran, there was no forward movement toward a natural gas deal; Iran and the GOB reiterated their commitment to the natural gas MOU signed during Ahmedinejad's visit (ref A).

4.(S) FM Mottaki sought an end to visa requirements for Iranian businessmen and, according to Al-Umran, was unhappy that the GOB would not budge. Al-Umran said he believed Teheran was looking to shift its business ties within the Gulf because "the UAE is closing the valve." He said that the MFA agreed to meet again in six months to discuss a mechanism to facilitate visas for businessmen. (Note: Currently, Bahraini Immigration and the Bahraini and Iranian Chambers of Commerce are involved in the vetting of business travelers. End note.)

5.(S) Al-Umran believed that Iran's increasing interest in Bahrain's markets and banking sector was a direct result of international pressure forcing it to seek new places to do business. "They want to dump their problems on us," he said. He praised Central Bank Governor Rashid Al-Miraj's stewardship of the banking sector, saying, "If the Iranians can follow international requirements, they are welcome. We will not accept anything that will hurt Bahrain's reputation as a banking center."

6.(S) FM Mottaki echoed Ahmedinejad's earlier claims (reftel) that the NIE exonerated Iran, according to Al-Umran. Both the Crown Prince and Foreign Minister told Mottaki that, while Bahrain did not support war, Iran must address the international community's concerns about its nuclear program.

7.(C) Comment: Some local media are reporting, without much detail, that Mottaki made progress toward a natural gas deal. The GOB tells U.S. officials that its need for gas is pressing, but it has also made it clear that Iran is the least attractive of the potential suppliers (ref B). ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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