________________________________________________________________________ Old foes gathering in Tehran ____________________________________________________________________________ Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press TEHRAN, Iran (December 8, 1997 11:11 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -- Former foes began arriving in Tehran on Monday for a three-day Islamic summit, demonstrating a growing acceptance of Iran by its Arab neighbors. The meeting of the 55-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, which begins Tuesday, is the largest gathering of foreign leaders in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's arrival at Mehrabad Airport marked the first visit by a high-ranking Saudi leader since the revolution. It follows almost a year of diplomatic efforts to improve ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally and the world's largest oil exporter. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami kissed Prince Abdullah on both cheeks in a traditional greeting and escorted him along a red carpet to a stand where the Saudi anthem was played. Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed Al-Sabah of Kuwait made his first visit to Iran. Kuwait opposed Iran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Then, Kuwait was one of Iraq's biggest financial backers, and Iran's revolutionary government was regularly vowing to export its revolution to other Muslim nations. Iraq, too, sent a delegation to the conference. Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan is the highest-ranking Iraqi to visit Tehran since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Asked about the possibility of normalizing relations with Tehran, he said: "We have this wish ... that we find the same attitude with the friends and brothers in Iran." Lebanese President Elias Hrawi -- the only Christian head of state at the summit -- and Lebanon's Muslim prime minister, Rafik Hariri, also arrived. Looking frail, Hrawi was helped on to a platform by Khatami. The only hitch came during Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's arrival. When Iranian security men tried to stop Arafat's bodyguard from getting into a car with him, the guard shoved them and was pushed back. The Iranians relented, allowing him to get in. The summit follows a two-day meeting of Muslim foreign ministers, who approved 140 resolutions for consideration during this week's meeting. The ministers condemned military cooperation with Israel in an apparent slap at Turkey, which signed two such agreements in 1996. With Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and other American allies present, the delegates stopped short of denouncing U.S. policies.
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