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Gulf states denounce Iran s meddling

RIYADH Apr 4 –  Gulf Arab monarchies including Saudi Arabia denounced Iran\’s "flagrant interference" in regional affairs and said Tehran was destabilising their countries, at a ministerial meeting overnight Saturday.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers said in a statement they were "deeply worried about continuing Iranian meddling" in their region.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, the GCC groups Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

At their meeting they accused Tehran of plotting against GCC countries\’ national security and fanning sedition and confessional disputes among their citizens.

Tehran was also "violating the sovereignty" of members of the regional grouping.

The GCC meeting came after the Iranian parliament\’s foreign affairs and national security committee said Thursday that "Saudi Arabia should know it\’s better not to play with fire in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf".

But the conservative Sunni monarchy on Sunday slammed what it described as an "irresponsible" statement containing "void allegations and blatant offense against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

The Iranian statement "fuels sectarianism", the Saudi Consultative Council had said according to state news agency SPA.

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Saudi Arabia led a joint Gulf force that entered Bahrain last month, enabling authorities to quell a month-long, Shiite-led protest demanding democratic reforms in the kingdom.

Ministers denounced "Iran\’s interference in Bahrain\’s internal affairs, in violation of international conventions and rules of good neighbourliness".

They said that the deployment of the Peninsula Shield force in Bahrain at the request of its authorities was legitimate and in line with a joint defence agreement between GCC countries.

The ministers also criticised as "irresponsible" the statement by the Iranian parliament\’s foreign affairs and national security committee which had called for the withdrawal of Saudi forces from Bahrain.

Iran must "stop these hostile policies and respect the rules of good neighbourliness … so as to preserve the security and stability in this region which is key for the entire world", they said.

Abdullatif al-Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council\’s new secretary general, had condemned "Iran\’s meddling in the internal affairs of GCC countries" on the eve of the meeting, saying it "threatened security and stability in the region".

Iran\’s foreign ministry said Sunday the tension between Tehran and Arab neighbours was the result of a "Western and Zionist conspiracy" aimed at "sowing discord between Islamic countries".

"We advise regional governments to heed the demands of their people in order to stop such conspiracies," said ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, while insisting "unity" among Muslims was the key issue for Iran.

Demonstrators in Bahrain appeared to have been inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt where protests succeeded in ousting the strongmen leaders.

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Protests also spread to the normally placid sultanate of Oman where demonstrators demanded better living conditions, without challenging the rule of Sultan Qaboos who has been in power since 1970.

A call for a nationwide protest in the Saudi kingdom last month, however, did not materialise.

Kuwait said Thursday it was to expel an unspecified number of Iranian diplomats for alleged links to a spy ring working for Tehran, reportedly ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A Kuwaiti court passed a death sentence on three members of the alleged ring, to which Tehran denied any links.

Tension between GCC countries and Shiite Iran had heightened after Manama accused Tehran of meddling in its internal affairs when it slammed Bahrain\’s decision to bring in Gulf troops.

The two countries recalled their ambassadors and expelled diplomats.

At least 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in a month of unrest in Bahrain.

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