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Sun 30 Sep 2007 12:28 AM

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Tensions grow over disputed Gulf islands

No progress made in resolving standoff between UAE and Iran over ownership of islands, minister says.

No progress has been made in resolving growing tensions between the UAE and Iran over ownership of three islands that lie between the two countries, the UAE foreign minister said late on Friday.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan reiterated the UAE’s demand that Iran hand back the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa that it seized control of in 1971 and urged the Islamic republic to come to the negotiation table to find a peaceful solution to the dispute, reported state news agency WAM.

“Until now, no progress whatsoever has been made on the settlement of the issue of the Iranian occupation in 1971 of the three UAE islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa,” the minister told the assembly, quoted WAM.

“We again urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to show its goodwill by working to achieve the solution of this issue by peaceful means, through bilateral and unconditional negotiations with the UAE."

Sheikh Abdullah said any settlement would require the full withdrawal by Iran from the three islands and the return of their continental shelf, territorial seas, air space and economic zones to the UAE.

If the Iran did not agree to this, the minister said, it should indicate its agreement that the issue be referred to the International Court of Justice for legal arbitration.

Sheikh Abdullah’s comments are the latest in a string of public statements from UAE government officials calling for direct talks with Iran over the islands’ handover.

In February this year Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, called for Iran to "show good will" and heed the UAE's request to settle the dispute, saying the Emirates "will abide by the international verdict, regardless of the outcome".

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