Clinton is expected to visit Qatar during her five-day tour aimed at strengthening ties with allies [FILE:EPA]

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has embarked on a tour of Gulf Arab nations in a bid to rally support for tighter sanctions against Iran.

Clinton was due to arrive in Abu Dhabi on Sunday for a five-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, located just across the Gulf from Iran.

The US is seeking greater co-operation from its Gulf Arab allies in enforcing international sanctions against Iran for that nation's disputed nuclear programme.

A senior official in the state department said Clinton will ask Gulf Arab leaders for insight into events in Iran and discuss how to make progress in new multilateral nuclear talks.

Clinton will also "want to take stock on where we are on the sanctions regime", the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Her trip comes ahead of a new round of international talks with Iran, tentatively scheduled for January 21-22 in Turkey.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - along with Germany, will again try to compel Iran to comply with demands to halt its uranium enrichment programme in return for incentives.

Iran is already under four rounds of sanctions.

Leaked memos

Gulf Arab nations have said that they are watching Iran's nuclear ambitions with "utmost concern".

The six nations, who met at an annual summit under the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, in December stepped up their appeals to the West for a greater voice in the renewed talks with Tehran.

Their two-day summit was the first gathering of the Gulf's monarchs since leaked US diplomatic memos displayed their behind-the-scenes fears of Iran's nuclear aims.

Revelations in some of the leaked cables included some Gulf leaders encouraging American military action against Iran over its nuclear programme.

'Shared aspirations'

Clinton was also expected to use the tour to secure support for Iraq's new government, and urge the region's leaders to work towards advancing democracy, economic and social reforms.

"At each stop, Secretary Clinton will consult with government officials on a full range of regional and bilateral issues, and emphasise the importance of government- civil society engagement," the state department said in a statement.

"In addition to these meetings, the secretary will engage with civil society and community leaders in each country working to help citizens realise shared aspirations for progress."

Clinton's trip to the Gulf will be her second in as many months. She is expected to head to Oman on Monday and Qatar on Tuesday, where she will address a regional conference of delegates from the business and civil society communities.

Source: Agencies