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Iran Continues to Ship Food To Qatar

Bushehr, an ancient port on the Persian Gulf is the center of province with the same name

Iran is shipping more than 1,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to Qatar every day after Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia cut relations with Doha, according to a port official in Bushehr province.

Mohammad Mehdi Bonchari, who spoke to Iran's Fars news agency insisted that expansion of port facilities in the province, which has 900 kilometer shoreline on the Persian Gulf, enables it to have extensive shipping to capabilities to neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are among several countries which announced on June 5 the suspension of all ties to Qatar over what they say is its support for extremist groups and its political proximity to Iran.

Qatar denies the allegations.

Iran, an arch-rival of Saudi Arabia, began exporting food to Qatar days later as the unprecedented Gulf crisis left the isolated emirate without the land transport links it usually relies on to import food.

Bonchari, director of ports in Iran's Boushehr province, said Tehran was shipping 1,100 tonnes of food each day to Qatar. He laso said that Bushehr ports have now capacity for 9 million tons of shipping annually and this capacity is being expanded.

Iran has also flown food to the emirate.

On June 11, Iran's national airline told AFP that it had sent five planes of vegetables to Qatar.

On the same day Fars quoted the head of Iran's cattle exporting association as saying 66 tonnes of beef had been exported to Qatar, with another 90 tonnes of beef expected to follow.

Qatar's air lines have been forced to re-route some of their flights to go over Iran to avoid the newly banned skies over Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain.

That has increased traffic in Iranian air space by 17 percent, the official state news agency has reported.

Iran has urged Qatar and Gulf neighbors to engage in dialogue to resolve their dispute.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called for a permanent mechanism in the Gulf to resolve crises like the blockade against Qatar.

But Iran itself is being accused by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain of interference in the affairs of Arab countries, notably for its support to Houthi rebels in Yemen and its influence building efforts in Iraq.

Based on reporting by Fars and AFP