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TEHRAN: Iran said Monday it hopes to expand ties with the United Arab Emirates after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected president of the Gulf country following his half-brother’s death.

The two countries downgraded diplomatic relations in 2016 following the severance of ties between Iran and Gulf Arab heavyweight Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the Emirates.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday congratulated Sheikh Mohamed on his election as president of the UAE, according to a presidency statement.

Raisi “expressed hope that the foundation of the development and progress of relations between the two countries… which was laid during the time of late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will be expanded with wisdom and in line with the interests of the two countries”, it said.

He said he hoped to see “increased deepening of mutual relations in all fields” between the two countries, the statement read.

Kamala Harris leads high-level US team to meet new UAE leader

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian left Tehran for Abu Dhabi on Monday morning to offer condolences over the late Emirati president’s death, according to the ministry.

The Iranian president had on Saturday also sent a message of condolences to the UAE on the death of Sheikh Khalifa.

Sheikh Mohamed has run the oil-rich Gulf state from behind the scenes since his half-brother was sidelined by ill health in 2014.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed elected UAE president

Under his leadership, Abu Dhabi has fostered trade and political ties across the region – including, to a limited extent, with Iran – but has sided with the US against Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The UAE forged ties with Iran’s arch-enemy Israel under the Abraham Accords in 2020, brokered by former US president Donald Trump.

Iran has said that Arab countries that normalise ties with Israel are stabbing Palestinians in the back.

Iran and UAE moreover support rival sides in Yemen’s seven-year civil war, with Abu Dhabi having been part of the Saudi-led military coalition that supports the internationally recognised government and Tehran backing the Houthi rebels.

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