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Monday, February 23, 2009

GCC warns Iran against making hostile remarks

By Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News

RIYADH: The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) yesterday called on Iran to refrain from hostile remarks against its Arab neighbors, while also proposing a joint fund for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

The recent provocative statement from a prominent Iranian conservative and high-level adviser, Ali Akber Nateq Nouri, who called Bahrain Iran’s 14th province, and the situation in war-ravaged Gaza Strip, especially in the light of the election victory of right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu, were the focus of discussions among GCC foreign and finance ministers who met here yesterday.

“Statements made from time to time by Iranian officials infringe on the sovereignty and independence of the Gulf states, especially Bahrain, and represent a flagrant aggression on the Arab identity of Bahrain,” said the GCC statement.

“The GCC is looking forward to the Iranian government to condemn and prevent the repetition of such odd voices, which increase tension and do not help to restore security and stability in the region,” the statement added.

Iran moved late last week to defuse the row, saying it respects the sovereignty of Bahrain. Bahrain has halted negotiations with Iran over a major gas import deal following Nateq Nouri’s comments. The deal, however, has not officially been canceled.

The GCC ministers also discussed the efforts required to rebuild the war-torn Gaza Strip and also ways to promote the Middle East peace process after Netanyahu forms Israel’s next government.

The ministers called on all Arab states to come together to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — a densely populated urban area of 1.5 million people — rebuild after the recent Israeli offensive. Officials said $1.25 billion has been pledged by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “The membership of this common program for the reconstruction of Gaza shall be open to all Arab countries and operated by a panel of the member nations,” it said.

The program, which seeks to mobilize efforts and generate funds for the reconstruction of Palestine, will be operated in cooperation with the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank.

“The goal is for the program to be implemented fast and minutely planned and also for it to respond to the needs of our Palestinian brethren in Gaza as soon as possible,” Oman’s minister in charge of foreign affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, told reporters.

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