05/29/2008, 00.00
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UAE and Iran at loggerheads over three tiny Gulf islands

Occupied by Iran the islands are located in the Strait of Homruz and have great strategic value. Iran rejects Russian mediation and international arbitration as requested by the UAE.

Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United Arab Emirates and Iran are again at loggerheads over three tiny islands occupied by Iran in the Persian Gulf, but which the UAE claims as its own. Iran dismissed the territorial dispute as a "misunderstanding" but a UAE Foreign Ministry official said that “there is no ‘misunderstanding’ between us but an actual occupation. There is no occupied land more sacred than any other. Occupation is occupation whether it is by Israel or Iran or any other country.”

The dispute over Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa (see photo) has gone on for years. Both sides base their respective claim on past occupancy of the islands, whose resident population is but a thousand. Economically none of them are of any value, but strategically they are important because they are located in the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the oil fields of the Persian Gulf.

Iran gained control of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa as British forces left the Gulf in 1971. Since then the dispute has never been resolved with the UAE backed by the Arab League, the last time in March.

As a way of the impasse the UAE asked Russia to persuade Iran to resolve the issue either through direct negotiations or international arbitration.

Russia responded positively to the suggestion, but Iran has said no, arguing that there is no need for mediation, that the dispute between the two countries was only a “misunderstanding.” To that the UAE shot back insisting that the “Iranian side does not want to understand.”

The UAE and Iran have strong bilateral economic and commercial ties.

Last year and earlier this year there were state visits by Iranian President Ahmadinejad and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

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