Iran threatens to sue Google over dropping Persian Gulf

DUBAI Thu May 17, 2012 3:45pm EDT

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DUBAI May 17 (Reuters) - Iran's Foreign Ministry threatened on Thursday to take legal action against Google for dropping the name Persian Gulf from its Google Maps and leaving the waterway between Iran and Arab states nameless, state television reported.

"One of the seditionist acts taken as part of the soft war against the Iranian nation has been Google's shameless act to drop the name 'Persian Gulf' which is ... against historical documents," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.

"We have put on our agenda to make an official complaint against Google," he said, according to state television.

Designation of the key waterway for global oil and gas supplies has long been a touchy issue among the countries bordering it - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iraq and Iran.

Iran says it is the Persian Gulf, the Arab states say it is the Arabian Gulf. Foreign language descriptions can offend either party if they use one name or the other, or sometimes if they avoid an adjective altogether.

Tension between Iran and U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states has been high over Iran's nuclear energy programme, which Gulf rulers fear will give Tehran a nuclear weapon. Iran says its peaceful nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity.

Gulf Arabs also accuse Iran of fomenting unrest in Bahrain - a charge Iran and protesters deny. Tehran has lauded Arab uprisings in the region as an "Islamic awakening" against despotic rulers, saying they were influenced by its own 1979 Islamic revolution.

Most ordinary Iranians are sensitive about the name of the waterway, saying it has been historically called the 'Persian Gulf'. Numerous pages on social media such as Facebook have been created and dedicated to the waterway.

Iran threatened in 2010 to ban airlines from using its airspace if they referred to the Arabian instead of Persian Gulf. (Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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