His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, left here yesterday at the end of a three-day visit marked by wide-ranging discussions with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, especially on the Middle East in the wake of latest international and regional developments.

Sheikh Hamad, who was seen off by the Omani monarch, also held discussions with Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, who recently visited Iran and met President Mohammed Khatami.

On Sunday, Sheikh Hamad toured, in the company of Sultan Qaboos, the Grand Sultan Qaboos Mosque being built on the outskirts of Muscat. Also present was foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.

In his cable after departure, Sheikh Hamad thanked Sultan Qaboos and the people of Oman for the traditional Omani hospitality extended to him and his colleagues. Sheikh Hamad arrived here the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left after holding talks with Sultan Qaboos.

"Indeed, Muscat has assumed new significance as a centre of discussions between the top leaders of the region," commented a senior diplomat, who is closely following the crisis created by Israel by refusing to accept the just and legitimate demands of the Palestinians and other Arabs.

"The crisis will deepen if Ariel Sharon (the right wing Likud Party leader) wins the elections to become Israel's new prime minister, although Ehud Barak (the Labour Party leader) has done enough to disenchant the Arabs."

The diplomat said the best way for the Arabs to tackle any Israeli prime minister was to display complete unity. Qatar and Oman are the only two GCC states which had developed trade links with Israel, ties which have since been severed by both to protest against the new Israeli brutalities inflicted on unarmed civilian Palestinians.

Sheikh Hamad's visit to Oman has been highlighted by the Qatari press, according to Oman Television, quoting Al Shar daily as saying that the visit was a prelude to the Arab Summit taking place in Jordan next month.

The daily remarked that the visit will pave the way for opening new horizons of cooperation between Oman and Qatar.

Sultan Qaboos also received yesterday Air Vice Marshal Saud Ahmed Nusairat, Commander of the Jordanian Royal Air Force, here on an official visit to promote defence cooperation between the two friendly countries.