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Iran seeks stronger ties with Qatar, Rouhani says

Qatar and Iran share ownership of world’s biggest natural gas field, which bears geopolitical significance
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives televised speech in Tehran earlier this year with portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in background (AFP/file photo)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday said his country wants to bolster ties with Qatar and rejected a Saudi-led blockade of the Gulf Arab emirate.

"Iran's policy is to develop more and more its relations with Doha," Rouhani said in a phone conversation with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, according to the presidency website.

"Tehran stands alongside the people and government of Qatar and we believe that... pressure, threats and sanctions are not a good solution to solve problems" between countries of the region, Rouhani added.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are among several countries that announced on 5 June the suspension of all ties to Qatar, accusing it of support for extremist groups, a claim Doha denies.

Qatar and Iran share ownership of the world’s biggest natural gas field, the South Pars/North Dome field, which bears geopolitical significance.

"Iran's air space, ground and sea will always be open to Qatar as a ... friendly nation," Rouhani said, adding that the cooperation of the two countries will remain "continuous," Al-Jazeera reported.

They have also closed their airspace to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirate's only land border - vital for its food imports.

Shia-dominated Iran, an arch-rival of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, has stepped in by shipping Qatar tonnes of fruit and vegetables.

"Helping Qatar economically and developing ties, particularly in the private sectors of both countries, could be a common goal," Rouhani said on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including Egypt, have issued 13 demands that they want Qatar to meet in return for an end to the nearly three-week-old diplomatic and trade "blockade".

Doha has denounced the demands - including the closure of Al-Jazeera news channel and downgrading ties with Tehran - as unreasonable.