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Peres Gets Red Carpet Welcome in Oman on First Visit

April 1, 1996 GMT

MUSCAT, Oman (AP) _ Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel received a red carpet welcome in Oman today on his first visit to the Arabian peninsula.

Ostensibly, Peres is in the Gulf, the Arab world’s financial powerhouse, to promote trade and cooperation with energy-rich Oman and Qatar. But his visit could signal a move toward establishing diplomatic relations between the two Gulf countries and Israel.

Peres and Sultan Qaboos of Oman reaffirmed their commitment to a ``just, comprehensive and permanent peace″ in the Middle East after their meeting in Salalah, an Arabian Sea port city 600 miles south of the capital, Muscat.

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Peres’ predecessor, the late Yitzhak Rabin, secretly visited Oman on Dec. 27, 1994.

Today, Peres arrived at the Salalah airport as a military band played the Israeli national anthem and the Israeli flag flew overhead.

Oman and Israel signed a trade agreement in January, making the sultanate the only country in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council to have trade links with Israel.

The council also includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.

Peres is scheduled to leave for Qatar on Tuesday. He will be the first Israeli prime minister to visit the emirate.

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