* 41-year-old dispute has nationalist overtones
* UAE spoke last month of Iran's "occupation"
* Iran says UAE claims are "baseless"
DUBAI, Oct 9 Iran warned the United Arab
Emirates on Tuesday it would consider cutting diplomatic ties if
the federation pressed its claim to three disputed tiny Gulf
islands which both countries say are theirs, Iranian media
The three islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb
sit near important oil shipping channels at the mouth of the
strategic Strait of Hormuz and were claimed by the U.S.-backed
Shah of Iran in 1971, just before the seven Gulf emirates won
independence from Britain and formed the UAE.
Iran has said its sovereignty over the three islands is
non-negotiable and Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin
Mehmanparast said on Tuesday Iran would consider downgrading
ties with the UAE if it continued to make claims.
"If the baseless anti-Iranian claims reach a point where
national interests lie in lessening or cutting political
relations, this step will be taken with consultation and based
on expert analysis," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by
parliamentary news agency Icana.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran stands firm in defence of its
territorial integrity," he said.
Last month, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed
al-Nahayan said Iran's "occupation" of the three islands was
against international law.
"We hope the Iranian government will deal with this
sensitive and important issue in a positive and just manner," he
said while visiting New York for the United Nations General
Assembly, according to UAE state news agency WAM.
The 41-year-old dispute between Shi'ite Iran and the Sunni
UAE has nationalist and ethnic overtones and has been inflamed
in recent months after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
visited Abu Musa in April.
In response, the UAE recalled its ambassador from Tehran for
consultations, calling the visit a "flagrant violation" of its