Iran and Arab revolts dominate Gulf summit

AFP , Tuesday 10 May 2011

Gulf leaders meet to discuss regional developments at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit

Leaders of Gulf monarchies were Tuesday meeting in Riyadh to discuss their tense relations with Iran, a stalled transition plan in Yemen and the popular uprisings shaking Arab nations, an official said.

The summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) "will discuss developments in Yemen and the GCC mediation, the situation in Libya and other Arab countries," the GCC official told AFP asking not to be named.

The GCC which groups Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain will also discuss "relations with Iran" and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi's recent tour of the region, he said.

Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilise Arab regimes in favour of popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.

Shiite-dominant Iran strongly criticised Saudi Arabia's mid-March military intervention in Sunni-ruled Bahrain that was aimed at helping crack down on a Shiite-led uprising there.

Iran says it gives "moral support" to Bahrainis but is not involved in the protests there. Bahrain and Kuwait have expelled Iranian diplomats, accusing them of espionage.

The Saudi daily Al-Watan said on Tuesday that GCC leaders must discuss "Iran's attempts to interfere in their internal affairs."

The GCC summit is also expected to discuss their March decision to create a development fund of $20 billion to help Bahrain and Oman -- both experiencing political unrest.

Al-Watan, urged that the regional grouping work harder to "stop the bloodshed in Yemen through their initiative providing for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh."

GCC attempts to get Saleh to agree a transition deal with the country's parliamentary opposition have stalled after he refused to sign it.

Since the last GCC summit in December in Abu Dhabi, the Arab world has undergone profound changes that have triggered concern among oil-rich monarchies.

Qatar is actively involved in the international effort against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. However, in other conflicts, the GCC has favoured negotiations.

The GCC has also treaded softly over the unrest shaking Syria, but a delegation from the grouping recently travelled to meet with President Bashar al-Assad.

"The GCC countries have not mediated, but may have offered advice to President Assad, stressing that security solution is not the only solution and that reforms are necessary," said Saudi analyst, Abdul Aziz al-Sager, director of the Gulf Research Centre based in Dubai.

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