Iran slams Gulf Arab "interference" over disputed islands

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2012 10:54 AM
Iran slams Gulf Arab "interference" over disputed islands

By Marcus George

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran accused its Gulf Arab neighbors on Wednesday of interfering in its internal affairs after they described a visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a tiny island - claimed by Iran and the United Arab Emirates - as a "provocative act".

After holding an extraordinary meeting to discuss the issue, foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council urged Iran to end its occupation of the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb which lie near key shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf.

Iran took control of the islands in 1971, shortly before the Gulf emirates gained full independence from Britain and formed the UAE. The islands are valued for their strategic position in the Strait and for their potential oil reserves.

"The Iranian ownership of these islands is a fixed matter. It is static and non-negotiable," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Rahim Mehmanparast said in a statement.

He described the GCC declaration as clear interference in Iran's internal affairs, adding that the president's visit to Abu Musa was related to Iran's territorial sovereignty.

"The era of un-constructive proclamations from the Gulf Cooperation Council regarding Iran's three islands has ended," he added.

More than 200 members of Iran's parliament described Ahmadinejad's visit to Abu Musa as a routine internal issue and said the claims by the UAE would "never have historical significance", Fars news agency reported.

The GCC also repeated the UAE's demand that Iran resolve the dispute through the International Court of Justice in The Hague or hold direct negotiations.

But Iranian media reported on Tuesday that the cabinet had discussed plans for the islands to be developed as tourist destinations, proposals which are sure to further agitate the United Arab Emirates.

(Reporting By Marcus George)