The US State Department has sent its special envoy for the Gulf to the region to discuss international diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to abandon its suspected quest for nuclear weapons. It is the first trip to the region for Dennis Ross since he was appointed to the position in late February. The State Department said Ross began his trip Tuesday and would visit Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. He is being accompanied by the deputy commander of US Central Command, Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, and National Security Council official Puneet Talwar. Ross, who during Barack Obama's election campaign advocated strong sanctions joined to outreach as a means of having Iran end its suspected weapons program, has been leading the group formulating the Iran policy document. The nations on his itinerary all favor a unified approach aimed at keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power. State Department spokesman Robert Wood on Monday denied that Ross would also visit Teheran for direct talks on the nuclear issue. "We are not there yet," he said.