Fear of Iranian nuclear arms high on Gulf states' agenda

Six Gulf states to discuss declaring the region a nuclear-weapons-free zone, hoping Iran would join the initiative.

abu dhabi 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
abu dhabi 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Fearful of a nuclear-armed state on their borders, leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states meeting in Abu Dhabi contemplated Sunday declaring the Persian Gulf a nuclear weapons-free zone in the hope that their neighbor Iran would join. "None of the GCC states support any country having nuclear power," said Mona Mohammed al-Hashemi of the Emirates Center For Strategic Studies and Research in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post. "As you know, Iran is a very strong country, but the GCC can say something about this issue. They can discuss and see how they should stand on this issue and see what they can do that won't harm them," he added According to GCC secretary-general Abdul Rahman Hamad al-Attiyah, quoted on the United Arab Emirates' official Emirates News Agency, the summit will not issue any statements condemning Iran's controversial nuclear program. That reflected Gulf nations' reluctance to provoke Iran and to be seen as siding with the West in the confrontation over Teheran's nuclear plans. The GCC, made up of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, announced before the summit that the agenda would include the Palestinian issue, Syria's involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, and the creation of a unified market and a monetary union. The leaders will also discuss the latest regional developments and anti-terrorism efforts. But what worries the GCC most is Iran's nuclear potential. Many in the West and in Arab countries believe Iran will use its nuclear energy program to develop nuclear weapons. The Arab countries fear such weapons would make Iran a superpower in the region. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is intended only to produce electricity. "We have confidence in Iran, but we don't want to see an Iranian nuclear reactor that is closer to our territorial waters than it is to Teheran. This causes danger and harm to us," the Emirates News Agency quoted Attiyah as saying. The issue has become even more important to the GCC as tensions have risen in the region following the recent anti-Israel statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The leaders of the GCC are expected to hold at least one closed session in addition to bilateral meetings during the two-day summit, which has been dubbed the "Fahd Summit" in honor of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who died in August. The Gulf Cooperation Council is a loose alliance formed in 1981 to devise a unified political, economic and military policy. However, it has achieved little and disputes have often developed between member states.