09/10/2008, 00.00
UAE - IRAN
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Arab League condemns Tehran for occupation of islands in Strait of Hormuz

Full support for the protest of the Emirates. For its part, the Gulf Cooperation Council is again asking that the question be resolved through international arbitration.

Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Arab League is condemning Iran's occupation of three islands belonging to the Emirates, and promising support for "any peaceful initiative" of the UAE for their recovery. At the same time, the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council is urging Tehran to accept international arbitration to resolve the question.

The objects of the dispute are the islands of Abu Mousa (in the photo) and Greater and Lesser Tunb. Almost uninhabited (population 500), they are of no economic importance, but of great strategic value, because they face the Strait of Hormuz, the "oil gateway". Their sovereignty is contested, but Tehran controls them and in recent weeks has placed a few maritime and coast guard offices on them. Iran has scornfully replied to similar protests recently by asserting its right to govern "Iranian territory".

In the past, both the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council had defended the claim of the Emirates, but the new statement of position of the council of 21 foreign ministers of the Arab League, made in Cairo, appears firm: the Emirates have an "unconditional right" to the three islands, and Iran must immediately remove the structures that it has illegally placed on Abou Mousa, in flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Emirates. The Arab League also condemns the Iranian military exercises involving the islands, their airspace, and their territorial waters, and finally calls upon Iran to stop building on the islands in order to change their demographic structure.

Any action of this kind, the Arab League affirms, must be considered as interference in the internal affairs of an independent and sovereign state, and does not promote reciprocal trust, undermining peace and security in the region and compromising the security of international navigation.

The head of the Gulf Cooperation Council - which includes the six Arab states of the Gulf, meaning Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait - Abdul Rahman al-Attiyah, in an interview with GulfNews says that Tehran must respond positively to the "sincere" requests of the council to take the question to the international court of justice in Aja.

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