By Claire Valdini
Foreign minister says President Ahmadinejad's visit to Abu Musa is "flagrant violation" of sovereignty
The UAE has strongly criticised Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to a disputed Gulf island, calling it a “flagrant violation” of its national sovereignty.
Ahmadinejad’s visit to Abu Musa, an island claimed by both countries since the 1970s, on Wednesday was the first trip by a head of state since Tehran took repossession of the island 41 years ago.
“His visit... is a flagrant violation of the UAE's sovereignty over its territory and a transgression of efforts to find a peaceful settlement to end Iranian occupation of the three UAE islands,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan, UAE Foreign Minister, cited by state news agency WAM.
“This visit will not change the legal status of these islands which are part and parcel of the UAE national soil,” he added.
Iran, then ruled by the Western-backed Shah, gained control of Greater and Lesser Tunbs, Abu Musa in 1971, just before the UAE's status as a protectorate of Great Britain 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.
Both countries now claim the three islands.
The UAE has urged Tehran to agree to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Ahmadinejad praised Iran's rich culture during the visit but made no mention of the dispute with the UAE, according to its official IRNA news agency.