(photo credit: AP [file])
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in the Emirates capital Abu Dhabi amid great fanfare Sunday, the first time an Iranian head of state has visited the Arab country since its independence in 1971.
Emirates news agency WAM confirmed Ahmadinejad's arrival Sunday afternoon, just a day after the departure of US Vice President Dick Cheney.
Ahmadinejad was greeted at Abu Dhabi International Airport by Emirates President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai leader Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the country's prime minister.
During his two-day visit, Ahmadinejad plans to meet with government leaders in Abu Dhabi as well as in Dubai, the Gulf state's largest city and home to most of the 500,000-strong Iranian expatriate community.
Ahmadinejad and Emirati sheiks Khalifa and Mohammed are expected to discuss issues relating to trade, Iranian nuclear policy and a group of disputed islands.
Ahmadinejad has increased Iran's assertiveness in the Gulf, explioting the Bush administration's unpopularity to challenge Washington's alliances with Gulf Arab countries like the Emirates.
Later Sunday, Ahmadinejad is expected to meet privately with Iranian business leaders at Dubai's giant Iranian club, where he is also scheduled to make a public speech. The Iranian president plans a press conference on Monday.