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Tue 26 Aug 2008 06:51 AM

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GCC leaders put island row on top of agenda

Top level talks over occupation planned as Gulf leaders hold session in Jeddah.

Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are to hold their 108th ministerial session next month in Jeddah with the Iranian occupation of three Emirati islands on top of the agenda.

The meeting of the six GCC states; Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, will be headed by Qatar this year.

GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman Al-Atiyya said that these meetings were crucial to the development of the region, especially with the latest events the area is witnessing.

He said that the session's main topic of discussion would be the Iranian occupation of the three Emirati islands and relations with Iran in light of the Tehran's recent measures in the island of Abu Musa.

''The GCC is totally behind the full sovereignty of the UAE over the three islands - Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa - and called on Iran to respond to the UAE sincere initiatives to settle the issue through direct negotiations or resort to the International Court of Justice," Al-Atiyya said.

''The GCC will also discuss the latest developments in the Palestinian-Israeli issue as well as the outcome of the Lebanese President's visit to Syria and the state of affairs in Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, according to Al-Atiyya.

Abu Musa and the Lesser and Greater Tunbs, located near key shipping lanes in the Gulf, are controlled by non-Arab Iran but claimed by the United Arab Emirates with broad Arab support.

The UAE summoned Iran's charge d'affaires last week to protest against Iran's establishment of maritime offices on one of the islands and said the move should be reversed.

In May, the UAE protested against Iran's dismissal of the three-decade-old territorial dispute as a misunderstanding and said Iran was occupying its islands in the strategic Gulf. A UAE source compared Iran's actions at the time to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands.

Other items on the agenda would deal with intentions for the peaceful use of nuclear power by GCC countries as well as other items discussed in previous ministerial meetings in the fields of communication, trade, industry, agriculture and the environment.

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