Gulf Arab ministers meet to discuss Iran 'meddling'

AFP , Sunday 3 Apr 2011

Gulf Arab foreign ministers meet Sunday in the Saudi capital to discuss Iranian interference in the region after a wave of unrest that has rocked the Arab world spilled over into some of the Western-backed monarchies

The Gulf Foreign ministers extraordinary meeting comes after Tehran warned Riyadh that it was "playing with fire" by deploying troops in neighbouring Shiite-majority Bahrain while Kuwait claimed it had broken an Iranian spy ring.

On Saturday, the new Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, condemned "Iran's meddling in the internal affairs of GCC countries" saying it "threatened security and stability in the region".

On Thursday, the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee said: "Saudi Arabia should know it's better not to play with fire in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf."

Saudi Arabia led a joint Gulf force that entered Bahrain last month, enabling authorities to quell a month-long Shiite-led protest demanding democratic reforms in the tiny kingdom.

In addition to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the GCC groups Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Demonstrators appeared to have been inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt where protests succeeded in ousting the strongmen leaders.

Protests also spread to the normally placid sultanate of Oman where demonstrators demanded better living conditions, without challenging the rule of Sultan Qaboos who has been in power since 1970.

A call for a nationwide protest in the Saudi kingdom last month, however, did not materialise.

Riyadh responded Friday to Iran's warning by slamming Tehran for "fuelling confessional tensions (in the region) and failing to respect the norms of good neighbourliness as in the case of Kuwait where a spy cell has been uncovered."

Kuwait said Thursday it was to expel an unspecified number of Iranian diplomats for alleged links to a spy ring working for Tehran, reportedly ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A Kuwaiti court passed a death sentence on three members of the alleged ring, to which Tehran denied any links.
The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, said his Kuwaiti counterpart would brief Sunday's meeting on the details of the alleged Iranian spy ring.

"Any action (against Iran) must be taken in a collective manner and after a thorough study, and must take into consideration the security and stability of the GCC," Sheikh Abdullah told Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas.

He said Iranian behaviour regarding the spy ring would "complicate matters between GCC states and Iran."
Tension between GCC countries and Shiite Iran had heightened after Manama accused Tehran of meddling in its internal affairs when it slammed Bahrain's decision to bring in Gulf troops.

The two countries recalled their ambassadors and expelled diplomats.

"We reject (Iran's) call to withdraw the Peninsula Shield force from Bahrain, and consider it an interference in Bahraini internal affairs," said Bahraini Zayani in a statement.

"These forces are in Bahrain due to the uncovering of a foreign-backed criminal plot that aimed to shake the security and stability in Bahrain and overthrowing its regime," he said.

At least 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in a month of unrest in Bahrain.

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