ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Leaders of six U.S.-allied Gulf Arab nations said Tuesday they were monitoring with “utmost concern” developments in Iran’s disputed nuclear program and issued a thinly veiled warning to their Persian neighbor not to meddle in their internal affairs.
A communique issued by the six leaders at the end of a two-day summit in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, said they wanted the dispute to be resolved through “peaceful means” and to make the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
The gathering of leaders from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman followed the publication of leaked U.S. diplomatic memos that revealed deeper concern among Gulf Arab leaders over Tehran’s nuclear program than had previously been known — including a desire by several of them to see the United States destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The six are grouped in the Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose political, military and economic alliance established in 1981 partly in response to Iran’s Islamic Revolution two years earlier and the fear that it would export its militant brand of political Islam to them.
“The council followed developments in the Iranian nuclear file with the utmost concern and stresses again the importance of commitment to the principles of international legitimacy and the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means,” said the GCC communique.
The annual GCC summit coincided with a new round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva.
The West suspects Iran’s nuclear program is designed to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies, insisting its objective is to generate electricity.
Another round of talks with Iran is now scheduled for early next year. “It is important that Iran is committed to the basis of good neighborly relations, mutual respect and noninterference in internal affairs, resolving disputes peacefully and not resorting to force or making threats to use it,” said the communique.
The statement did not elaborate, but it was alluding to concern among Gulf Arab leaders about the growing influence of Shiite Iran in Iraq, a Shiite majority nation which neighbors GCC member states Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Some GCC states, according to the leaked U.S. diplomatic memos, also complain of Iranian meddling in their own countries.
Bahrain, for example, is majority Shiite and Iran is widely suspected to be fomenting unrest among Shiites there who complain of discrimination by the nation’s Sunni ruling family.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia also have large Shiite minorities.
According to the leaked memos, several Gulf Arab nations are also concerned by Iran’s influence in Lebanon, where its Shiite ally Hezbollah has the nation’s strongest military force. They also complain that Iran’s support to the militant Islamic Hamas group in Gaza is hindering efforts to reach a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord.