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Sun 21 Apr 2013 10:52 AM

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Iran lawmakers to visit disputed UAE islands this week

Abu Musa, Greater and Less Tunb dispute is a long-running territorial saga between Iran and UAE

Iran lawmakers to visit disputed UAE islands this week
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (AFP/Getty Images).

A group of Iranian lawmakers will this week make an official visit to a group of three Gulf islands whose ownership is the focus of a diplomatic tussle between Iran and the UAE.

According to state-run Fars news agency, parliamentarians will make a two-day trip to Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb starting on April 24 to hold meetings with local officials on matters including security.

The islands are claimed by both Iran and the UAE.

At last month’s Arab League summit in Doha, deputy secretary general Ahmed ben Helli read out a statement advocating the UAE’s ownership of the three tiny islands, prompting fierce criticism from Iran.

"The islands of Abu Musa, the Greater Tunb, and the Lesser Tunb are inseparable parts of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Iran foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said at the time.

Iran, then ruled by the Western-backed Shah, gained control of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa in 1971, just before the UAE's status as a protectorate of the UK ended and the Gulf state became independent.

The three islands dominate the approach to the Strait of Hormuz, through which around one-fifth of the world’s oil supply passes.