Iranian Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani flew into Kuwait on Saturday with a message from Iran's president on boosting ties, as Tehran moved to defuse a gas dispute with its Gulf neighbor.
"My visit is cultural in nature. But I am also carrying a letter from President Mohammad Khatami to (Kuwait's emir) Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah," said Mohajerani, quoted on arrival by the official news agency KUNA.
"This is an indication of the fraternal relations between the two friendly states," he said, adding that they aimed to boost cultural links in line with an agreement signed last year.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran and Kuwait signed an agreement on cultural cooperation in 1999 and we hope to set a timetable for fulfillment of the accord,” said Mohajerani quoted by Iran’s news agency (IRNA).
He was greeted at the airport by Kuwait's Information Minister Saad bin Teflah al-Ajmi, who said closer cultural ties would help political and economic relations.
While Mohajerani was on his way to Kuwait from Isfahan in central Iran, Tehran announced it had stopped all drilling at an offshore gas site claimed by Kuwait and insisted that it had no intention of sparking a petro-dispute.
The announcement came after foreign press reports of high-level diplomatic efforts by both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to halt Iran's drilling and exploration work at the site in Dorra gas field.
Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Mehdi Hosseini acknowledged that a platform at the disputed site had been active for three months.
"After the emergence of these differences, work has been stopped and the installation will be taken down," he said, while insisting however that the site was Iranian territory.
"Iran wants neither to assert any claims on Dorra nor create tension in the region," he said.
Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, quoted in newspapers, said earlier that Iran and the emirate would soon hold talks on the gas field dispute.
For his part, Iran’s foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi said in Tehran Saturday that Iran welcomes Kuwait's readiness to hold talks with the country to demarcate boundaries of the continental shelf.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has for years been proposing talks on demarcation of the boundaries of the Continental Shelf between Iran and Kuwait and we welcome recent remarks of Kuwaiti Foreign Minister on readiness for holding the talks,” Kharrazi told IRNA.
Kharrazi said that Iran hopes that the talks would be held as soon as possible as the Kuwaiti official have promised so.
The Dorra field, discovered in 1967, is located in a sector of northern Gulf waters where the demarcation of the continental shelf is subject to rival claims by Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – (Agencies)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )