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GCC rejects Iran claim, says 'Gulf is Arab'

by Staff Writers
Abu Dhabi (AFP) May 3, 2011
Interior ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council on Tuesday denounced Iranian claims and said the Gulf did not exclusively belong to the Islamic state.

"The Gulf is Arab and it will remain as it is," the ministers said in a statement after a meeting in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The GCC ministers said remarks by an Iranian official Saturday were "provocative, irresponsible and contrary to the principles of good neighbourliness, mutual respect and non-interference."

The chief of staff of Iran's armed forces General Hassan Firouzabadi had denounced what he called an "Arab dictatorial front" and claimed that the "Persian Gulf had belonged to Iran for ever."

In the initial reaction, GCC chiefs on Monday slammed the statement as "aggressive."

"The Gulf belongs to all states on its shores, and Iran has no right to claim otherwise as it owns nothing from the Gulf but its territorial waters," GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani said in a statement on Monday.

Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilise Arab regimes in favour of popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.

Shiite-dominant Iran strongly criticised Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Sunni-ruled Bahrain that was aimed at helping crack down on a Shiite-led uprising there.

Iran says it gives "moral support" to Bahrainis but is not involved in the protests there.

The interior ministers said Tuesday that the protection force deployed in Bharain was at the request of that country.

Bahrain and Kuwait have expelled Iranian diplomats, accusing them of espionage.

Iran has in the past claimed Bahrain as part of its territory, and it controls three islands in the southern Gulf that are also claimed by the United Arab Emirates.

Besides Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, the GCC also includes Oman, Qatar and oil-producing kingpin Saudi Arabia.

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