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Gulf Arab leaders to discuss Iran crisis at summit

Written by: Staff

Riyadh, May 6 : U S-allied Gulf Arab leaders who meet in Riyadh today will call for a peaceful solution to the crisis between Iran and Western nations over its nuclear ambitions, analysts and officials said.

Gulf Arab countries, wary of Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, share U S concerns about Iran having a nuclear bomb but fear another military conflict in the region after the 2003 U S-led invasion of Iraq.

''These countries do not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon but they also do not want it taken by force,'' said Saudi political analyst Dawoud al-Shiryan.

''They want stability in the Gulf and they will call on the world to save the Gulf region from any convulsions.'' The one-day summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) comes as France, Britain and Germany, with U S backing, drafted a U N resolution that demands a halt to Iran's nuclear fuel programme.

But Russia and China, who as nuclear powers have a veto on Security Council resolutions, may oppose sanctions against Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil exporter.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and has promised revenge if attacked by the United States or Israel.

A GCC official in Riyadh said the political and economic alliance -- which comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- may try to use their close links to Washington to mediate in the dispute.

He noted that Qatar's ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa met Iranian officials in Tehran last week. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said in Dubai last week that Iran welcomed any Gulf Arab mediation.

When GCC leaders met in December they singled out Israel in a call for a nuclear-free Middle East and left out Iran in an effort to keep diplomatic channels open. ''They will mention both in the final statement this time,'' the official said.

Israel is widely suspected of possessing nuclear weapons, and Iraq suffered over a decade of United Nations sanctions and a war largely over concerns that it was developing such weapons.

Popular concern over a nuclear Iran in the Arab world is mainly limited to the Gulf region. Iran's pro-Palestinian rhetoric plays well to Arab publics who view their governments as doing little to stand up to U S backing for Israel.

Gulf Arabs are worried about the environmental impact of a U S attack on Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr on the other opposite side of the narrow waterway.

Analysts say normally quietist Gulf Arab states could face popular pressure to emulate Iran if it obtained the bomb, challenging their close ties with the United States.


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