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Tension rises between Iran and Gulf states

Tension between the Gulf states and Iran has risen again, with the Sunni monarchies accusing their Shiite neighbour of “flagrant” meddling and Tehran charging Washington with sowing regional discord.

In a strong statement on Sunday, Gulf Cooperation Council member states told Iran to stop its “provocations”, a month after Bahrain quelled a Shiite-led uprising, triggering a tirade of Iranian condemnation.

The group called on “the international community and the (UN) Security Council to take the necessary measures to stop flagrant Iranian interference and provocation aimed at sowing discord and destruction” among GCC nations.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday also threatened to recall its diplomats from Tehran unless they were better protected, a week after students protested outside the Saudi embassy against Riyadh’s military intervention in Bahrain last month.

“The main reason (for the GCC move) is the uncovering of Iranian (espionage) cells in Gulf countries, in addition to direct and indirect interference,” Abdulaziz Sager, head of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre, said.

Earlier this month, Bahrain said two Iranians were being put on trial on charges of spying for Tehran, and Kuwait announced plans to expel Iranian diplomats for alleged links to a spy ring working for Tehran.

“Fuelling tension through (Iranian) media like Al-Alam and (Hezbollah’s) Al-Manar television, and the feeling among Gulf states that their embassies in Tehran were in danger” also prompted the GCC statement, Mr Sager said.

“There is a contradiction between what the Iranians say and what they do,” he said, and added that Iran insists on meddling in Arab affairs, despite statements of readiness to resolve differences.

Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded yesterday to GCC criticism by blaming the United States for the tension with its Arab neighbours.

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