Gulf rulers tell Iran keep out, Tehran says beware

AFP , Monday 4 Apr 2011

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council accuse Iran of violating sovereignty of Gulf countries

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, center, welcomes United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, (AP).

Arab states of the Gulf have accused Iran of meddling in Bahrain and Kuwait, stirring a warning from Iran on Monday for pro-US monarchs to focus instead on meeting the demands of their people.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also called for Saudi and other Gulf troops to pull out of Bahrain and charged the United States and its allies had put pressure on the monarchies to fire a volley at Tehran.

A statement of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers issued late on Sunday after a meeting in Riyadh was the result of "pressure from America and its allies. It does not bear any legal value," he said.

"It is hideous that troops have been brought in," the Islamic republic's president added at a Tehran news conference. "Take them out. The people have demands so listen to them."

The GCC foreign ministers said they were "deeply worried about continuing Iranian meddling."

The GCC -- grouping Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- accused Shiite Iran of plotting against the security of its Sunni monarchies and of fanning confessional discord.

Tehran was "violating the sovereignty" of members of the regional grouping, they said.

The GCC meeting came after the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee said Thursday that "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 which was deployed in Bahrain last month, enabling authorities to quell a month-long, Shiite-led protest demanding democratic reforms in the kingdom.

The Gulf heavyweight on Sunday slammed what it described as an "irresponsible" Iranian statement full of "void allegations and blatant offense against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

The statement from neighbouring Iran, which has come out publicly in support of the so-called "Arab Spring" of protests, "fuels sectarianism", it said.

In Tehran, Kazem Jalali, spokesman for Iran's hardline foreign affairs committee, said on Monday the Gulf states would be better advised to address the grievances of their peoples as anti-regime protests sweep the Arab world.

"Iran will never interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbours," he was quoted as saying by Iran's news agency IRNA. The GCC countries had "better reconsider their own actions" rather than issuing "emotional statements".

The GCC ministers at the Riyadh meeting also condemned "Iran's interference in Bahrain's internal affairs, in violation of international conventions and rules of good neighbourliness".

The deployment of the GCC's Peninsula Shield force in Bahrain at the request of authorities in Manama was legitimate and complied with the terms of a joint defence agreement between the group's members.

The ministers criticised as "irresponsible" the statement from Iran's parliamentary committee that called for the withdrawal of the Saudi-led contingent from its small neighbour Bahrain.

Iran must "stop these hostile policies and respect the rules of good neighbourliness ... so as to preserve the security and stability in this region which is key for the entire world", the GCC ministers said.

Last Thursday, Kuwait announced it was expelling an unspecified number of Iranian diplomats for alleged links to a spy ring working for Tehran, although it has denied any involvement.

Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday charged that the West and Israel were stirring up tension between Tehran and its Arab neighbours in the Gulf. "We advise regional governments to heed the demands of their people," it said.

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