KUWAIT CITY - Iran's most senior diplomat arrived in Kuwait on Sunday to begin a three-nation regional tour aimed at deepening ties with Arab neighbors following the conclusion of the Islamic Republic's historic nuclear deal with world powers.
Saudi Arabia and other Western-allied Arab states lining the Persian Gulf harbor deep suspicions about Iran's intentions in the region, though they have expressed hope that the nuclear deal will enhance regional security by reducing the chances Iran will acquire an atomic bomb.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif received a red-carpet airport greeting from his Kuwaiti counterpart, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah. He is expected to hold talks later with the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who paid his first visit as head of state to Iran last year.
Iran agreed earlier this month to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for broad sanctions relief. The curbs are aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining an atomic bomb, something it denies it is seeking.
After Kuwait, Zarif is scheduled to visit Qatar and Iraq. Iranian state-linked media say he will brief officials in all three countries on the nuclear accord and discuss ways to improve cooperation and fight terrorism.
Iran shares control of a vast underwater natural gas field with Qatar, a wealthy nation rapidly being transformed by its hydrocarbon riches. In Iraq, Tehran has close ties with senior government leaders and Shiite militia groups, and it is playing an active role in fighting Islamic State militants who have seized a third of the country.
Growing discord with another Gulf Arab state, the island nation of Bahrain, threatens to overshadow Zarif's outreach effort.
Bahrain on Saturday announced it was recalling its ambassador to Iran for consultations following what it called "continued hostile statements made by Iranian officials towards Bahrain,'' according to the official Bahrain News Agency.
Authorities also announced they have broken up an attempt to smuggle weapons, ammunition and explosives into the kingdom.
Among those arrested were two 30-year-old Bahraini suspects, Mahdi Subah Abdulmohsen Mohammed and Abbas Abdulhussain Abdullah Mohammed. Officials say the first suspect received military training in Iran in August 2013, and that the men admitted to receiving the shipment from "Iranian handlers outside Bahrain's territorial waters.''
Bahraini authorities have announced similar confiscations of contraband weapons and explosives in the past. A Shi'ite-led opposition movement in Bahrain continues to press for reform in the country, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Iran has voiced support for those demanding change in Bahrain but denies direct interference in the country.
Bahrain last week summoned Iran's acting charge d'affaires, Mortadha Sanubari, to protest comments made by top Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In a televised speech earlier this month, Khamenei said Iran would continue to support its regional friends despite its recent nuclear deal with world powers, including ``the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq [and] Bahrain.''
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Hassan Ghashghavi downplayed the ambassador's recall. He said it was only for consultations and that there would be no cut in diplomatic ties, according to the official IRNA news agency.