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Fri 8 Aug 2008 06:14 AM

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Senior GCC chief slams Iran in war of words

Gulf official hits back after deputy minister predicts downfall of Arab monarchies.

A senior Gulf official has slammed an Iranian deputy minister for questioning the legitimacy of pro-Western Arab monarchies in the region, saying such remarks can only fuel tensions.

"Such suspicious comments do not at all help build trust... among states of the region. They can only stoke conflicts and drag the region into a cycle of dangerous crises," Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdurrahman al-Attiyah said in a statement received by AFP.

He was responding on Thursday to a statement by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi in which he predicted the downfall of Arab monarchies in the Gulf.

"Soon another crisis will grip the Persian Gulf area, and that is the legitimacy crisis of the monarchies and traditional systems in the region," Mohammadi was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying.

"The next crisis predicted to cover mainly the Persian Gulf is the crisis of legitimacy of the monarchies and traditional systems, which considering current circumstances cannot go on living," said Mohammadi, who is in charge of research and education affairs.

He was speaking in Mashhad at the July 26 close of the 10th conference of Iranian universities' Basiji (volunteer militia) professors.

"Those who believe that the present circumstances enable them to expand and exercise control at the expense of others' interests are mistaken," Attiyah said on Thursday.

GCC states "are very disappointed by, and deeply concerned at, such irresponsible remarks and they expect an immediate clarification from Iran of its deputy foreign minister's statement," he added.

The Riyadh-based GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Attiyah's hard-hitting response came one day after Kuwait chided Iran for threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the vital Gulf oil supply route, amid persisting tensions in the region over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran has warned it could close the strategic waterway if it came under attack over its nuclear programme.

Washington has never ruled out resorting to military action over what it charges is Iran's effort to develop a nuclear weapon -- a charge Tehran denies -- and there has also been speculation that Israel might strike Iranian nuclear sites.

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