10/30/2008, 00.00
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Tehran, Abu Dhabi set up joint committee on economy, disputed islands

The agreement is aimed at a general reinforcement of relations between Iran and the Emirates. The disputed islands have a purely strategic value. The regime of the mullahs announces the creation of a naval base to control traffic through the Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The foreign ministers of Iran and the United Arab Emirates, Manouchehr Mottaki and Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (in the photo) have signed a memorandum of understanding creating a joint committee to expand economic and political cooperation between the two countries. Although this is not explicitly included in the committee's sphere of activity, it is also expected to examine the question of the three islands in the Gulf - Greater and Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa - claimed by both countries.

The dispute has gone on for years, and has sometimes turned bitter: both sides point to different moments in history to back up their claims over the three islands, which have fewer than a thousand inhabitants in all and little or no economic value, but significant strategic interest, since they are inside the Strait of Hormuz, the "oil gate" for the countries facing the Gulf. Currently, the islands are occupied by Iran, which placed a few naval and coast guard installations there this summer. This move was condemned by the Arab League, which supports the claim of the Emirates.

Confirming the importance that, above all in this moment, the regime of mullahs attributes to control of the Strait, yesterday the commander of the Iranian navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, announced the creation of a naval base in Jask, an Iranian port situated just in front of the entrance to the Strait. "We can prevent the entry of any enemy naval units into the strategic Persian Gulf area if need be," says Admiral Sayyari, according to the news agency Fars.

Apart from the strategic question, the agreement between Iran and the Emirates is aimed at reinforcing economic ties between the two countries. The Emirates are Tehran's main commercial partner, with trade that amounted to 11.7 billion dollars last year. 450,000 Iranians live in the Emirates (the country has about 5 million inhabitants), and 10,000 Iranian companies operate there. On the political level, finally, this step is important to Iran in order to overcome the political mistrust of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

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