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Gulf leaders meet after WikiLeaks revelations

by Staff Writers
Abu Dhabi (AFP) Dec 6, 2010
Gulf Arab leaders kicked off an annual summit Monday in the absence of Saudi Arabia's ailing king and with their fears exposed over Iran's nuclear drive, courtesy of WikiLeaks.

Embarrassed by the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, which showed the extent of their concerns about Iran, officials of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have ignored the leaks.

On the eve of the summit, which King Abdullah is missing after undergoing back surgery in New York, new WikiLeaks documents revealed the United States accused Saudi Arabia of being a source of terror funding.

The files unveiled a 2009 assessment by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton naming donors in Saudi Arabia as "the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

They also branded Gulf states Qatar and Kuwait as notably lax in pursuing donors to the groups.

"The GCC countries are very disappointed by the leaks as they are usually hushed in their political stances... (but) they have never openly called for a strike on Iran," Gulf analyst Abdulwahab Badrkhan told AFP.

"Western countries had earlier praised the Gulf countries' cooperation" in fighting terror, said Badrkhan, adding leaders would be more "cautious" when discussing politics with the United States in future.

The US cables unveiled widespread fears among Gulf Arab states that Iran's nuclear programme masks a drive to build an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran has repeated denied.

King Abdullah was quoted in one of the leaked cables as saying the United States should "cut off the head of the snake" in reference to military action against Iran.

And Bahrain's King Hamad told US General David Petraeus the Iranian "programme must be stopped... The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

The GCC countries, fearing the growing influence of Shiite Iran in the region, did not hide their anger at being excluded from talks on Iran's nuclear programme, which resumed Monday in Geneva after a 14-month hiatus.

"Why do Western countries think that the Iranian issue concerns them alone?" Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan asked at a security conference in Manama.

"Any solution with Iran should come from the region, and the GCC countries should have a role in these negotiations," said the UAE foreign minister.

Kuwait's emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah told the summit opening "dialogue" was the way for a "peaceful" solution to the nuclear standoff.

Outgoing GCC secretary general Abdulrahman al-Attiyah told AFP world powers must "coordinate with and consult GCC countries because we are six states neighbouring Iran... and there are political matters which we should be consulted and informed about regarding its nuclear programme."

Badrkhan said, however, relations between the United States and its Gulf allies would not be directly affected as the need to maintain good ties between both sides is mutual.

"Gulf countries need Washington and Washington needs Gulf countries, based on the oil, economic and strategic interests both sides share," he said.

The GCC nations, which sit on 45 percent of the world's proven crude oil reserves and around one fifth of its natural gas, have welcomed the recovery of oil prices to more than 80 dollars a barrel.

At their two-day summit in Abu Dhabi, which Oman's Sultan Qaboos is not attending, leaders are expected to discuss the growing Al-Qaeda presence in Yemen, from where militants also infiltrate Saudi Arabia to carry out attacks.

Iraq also figures on the agenda.

Kuwait's emir, whose country held the presidency of the council for the past term, also congratulated Qatar for winning the bid to host the football World Cup 2022, saying it was an "achievement" for all Arabs and Muslims.

"This is an unprecedented achievement," said Attiyah, who will be replaced in 2011 by Bahraini Abdulatif al-Zayani.

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