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Iran, Arabs bicker over Gulf islands

March 31, 2009 at 3:34 PM   |   Comments

TEHRAN, March 31 (UPI) -- Iranian leaders said Tuesday that disputes over three islands in the Persian Gulf are an attempt to draw attention away from the Palestinian issue.

Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, expressed a coordinated position by Arab states that three islands -- Abu Moussa and Greater and Lesser Tunb -- are United Arab Emirates territory under Iranian occupation, the Emirates News Agency reports.

Iranian media sad that Iran, for its part, holds a variety of binding documents stating it holds sovereignty over the tiny islands.

"It is most evident that Arab claims over the three Iranian islands will never undermine Iran's sovereignty as they have no legal foundation," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said.

There is a complex and storied dispute over the three islands left over from British control of the region in the early 20th century. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1980 had attempted to provide justification for his war with Iran in part based on the liberation of the islands.

Qashqavi added that the United Arab Emirates' claims were an attempt to draw attention away from the Palestinian issue.

Arab officials attended their regional summit in Qatar to tackle a variety of issues. Leaders had expected to form a unified statement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, though a boycott by Egypt made that unlikely.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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