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Wed 21 Apr 2010 12:24 PM

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Iranian occupation of Gulf islands 'unlawful' – minister

Foreign Minister says occupation of three islands barrier to UAE-Iran relations.

Iranian occupation of Gulf islands 'unlawful' – minister
DISPUTED ISLANDS: Abu Musa is one of three islands at the centre of the row with Iran.

The UAE’s foreign minister has compared Iranian occupation of three islands in the Persian Gulf to Israeli occupation of Gaza and Southern Lebanon and said the dispute was a barrier to UAE-Iranian bilateral relations, the WAM news agency has reported.

UAE Foreign Minister HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said that “occupation of any Arab land is occupation and is not a misunderstanding. Israeli occupation of Golan Heights, Southern Lebanon, West Bank or Gaza is called occupation and no Arab land is dearer than another."

Addressing members of the Federal National Council (FNC), Sheikh Abdullah said he was not holding comparisons between Israel and Iran, "however, occupation is occupation and is unlawful, according to Arab traditions, Islam and the international community," WAM reported.

Sheikh Abdullah added that Iran’s occupation of the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Mousa, will always be a "negative factor" in bilateral relations between the two countries and a "painful thing for all the UAE nationals."

In March, Iran rejected UAE's claims to the three islands and said the UAE’s claims to them were a “clear interference in Iran's internal affairs.”

"The three islands remain an indisputable part of the Iranian territory. We have repeatedly said that the slight misunderstanding between Iran and the UAE over Abu Musa is resolvable and the interference of other parties will never help solve the problem," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Press TV, an English-language Iranian news network.

In May 2009, the UAE made calls for Iran to start talks over the three disputed islands.

Iran gained control of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa islands in 1971, as Britain granted independence to its Gulf protectorates and withdrew its forces.

Iran took possession of the Tunbs, while Abu Musa - the only inhabited island - was placed under joint administration under a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.

The UAE has the full backing of fellow GCC states Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in its claim to the islands, near the Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 40 percent of the world's crude oil passes.