Saudi King Abdullah 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
RIYADH - Gulf Arab leaders on Tuesday endorsed Saudi King Abdullah's
call to form a "single entity" after hinting at Iranian threats, and
demanded Syria immediately implement an Arab peace plan to defuse months
of violence over anti-government protests.
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The foreign minister
of Saudi Arabia, which dominates the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC), said Syria must embrace all of the Arab league plan it has
signed, which calls for pulling troops from population centers,
releasing prisoners and dialogue with opposition forces.
intentions are pure, these steps must be taken immediately," Saudi
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in response to a question
about Syria's signing of the plan from the Arab League, which has also
imposed sanctions on Damascus.
His remarks came as the
energy-exporting six-member GCC concluded its highest-level meeting
since a wave of protests swept the Arab world earlier this year, and
pledged closer military and security integration in a final statement
read out on Saudi state television.
But the statement made no
specific reference to non-Arab Iran, which Gulf leaders have accused of
fomenting unrest in Bahrain in the wave of mass uprisings that have
redrawn the political landscape of the Middle East.
agreed on "...adopting king Abdullah's suggestion of moving from
cooperation to unity that would support our people overcome the
challenges faced by the GCC," the statement said.
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on Monday said that the security of Saudi Arabia and its Arab neighbors
was being targeted, in an apparent reference to regional rival Iran, and
called on Gulf Arab states to "move beyond the stage of cooperation and
into the stage of unity in a single entity".
He did not expand on the remarks, which drew applause from the hall
where officials of GCC member states were sitting, but analysts said
they were probably aimed at a perceived threat from Iran and the Arab
The GCC members concluded their two-day meeting with a pledge to study
and report back on the idea by March, without specifying any concrete
steps that might be taken.
Analysts and officials said the idea of greater union in the GCC, which
has seen little progress toward that goal expressed in its 1981 founding
charter, had been discussed informally among members given concerns
about the regional situation.
Proposals for a customs union, single currency and shared military
command have not been realized, although the countries did form a small
joint armed force that sent troops to Bahrain in February at the request
of the island state's rulers.
Earlier this year, the Gulf Arab states said Morocco and Jordan, the two
other Arab monarchies, might join the group. However, there has been no
Tensions have risen sharply between the two leading Gulf powers, Shi'ite
Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia in recent months after the Arab
uprisings tilted the power balance in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia had long suspected Iran of harboring expansionist ambitions
in the region after the emergence of a Shi'ite government in Iraq, and
suspects it of attempting to develop a nuclear bomb.
It has also pointed to accusations by the United States that Iran backed
a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington as proof of
Iran's intent to destabilize the region.
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