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MIDDLE EAST: In wake of WikiLeaks scandal, Arab leaders are cautious on Iran censure

December 8, 2010 |  6:57 am

GCC Nahyan

Arabian peninsula states have adopted a conciliatory tone on Iran a little over a week after U.S. diplomatic cables released by the watchdog site WikiLeaks appeared to show serious anxiety among Arab leaders over Tehran's growing power, and even enthusiasm in some corners (and at certain points) for a military attack on its controversial nuclear program.

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Atiyyah stopped short of an outright repudiation, but he described the content of the leaked cables as "guesses or analyses that can hit or miss" and that "generated misunderstandings," according to the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper.

The council wrapped up a two-day summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, gently calling on Iran to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program in order to end sanctions against Tehran. The closing statement also reiterated Arab support for Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program.

The council includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as member states.

Its official stance on Iran stands in sharp contrast to comments made by Arab leaders in the secret documents leaked a little over a week ago, in which the heads of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain were among those who lobbied the United States to strike at Iranian nuclear facilities.

The council did, however, declare its support for Emirati claims to the Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Moussa, three disputed islands that lie between Iran and the Emirates and are currently under Iranian control.

The statement also called on Iran to promote "good neighborliness" by not interfering in Arab states' affairs. Tehran has been accused by some Arab leaders of infiltrating national intelligence agencies, supporting Shiite opposition groups in the Arab world and using the UAE to launder money and evade sanctions.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Elaph published a rundown of Arab-Iranian relations by country (Arabic link).

According to the report:

-- Tehran has dismayed Saudi Arabia with its stances on Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian issues, which exacerbated existing suspicions over the nature of Iran's nuclear program.

-- Kuwait and Iran have a history of open hostilities, but recent years have seen a superficial improvement in relations, with the exchange of high-profile visits and cordial public statements. Tensions persist, however, and Kuwait continues to accuse Iran of penetrating its security and intelligence agencies.

-- Bahrain comes up against Iranian "sabotage networks and security penetrations" on a "nearly daily basis," but rarely makes public accusations for fear of escalating political tensions.

-- Although Qatar has made public overtures of openness toward Iran, Tehran continues to be suspicious of Doha's close political ties with the United States and its thriving trade with Israel.

-- The UAE has little love for the Islamic Republic, despite strong trade relations between the two countries and the fact that Iranian business elite play a significant role in the Emirates' commercial life.

-- Oman is the only Arabian peninsula country that continues to maintain friendly relations with Iran, despite tensions between Tehran and Oman's Arab neighbors.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

 Photo: UAE President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan at the closing statement of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Abu Dhabi. Credit: WAM

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