DUBAI The UAE has recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultations after what it called a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who visited a Gulf island claimed by both countries.
Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that Ahmadinejad visited Abu Musa island, some 60 km (40 miles) off the United Arab Emirates, on Wednesday as part of a tour of Iran's Gulf coast.
Both countries claim Abu Musa and two other small islands, located near key shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. The islands have been held by Iran since 1971, shortly before the seven Gulf emirates gained full independence from Britain and formed the UAE.
UAE's state news agency WAM said on Thursday the envoy had been recalled for consultations, without giving further details.
Ahmadinejad's visit "is a flagrant violation of the United Arab Emirates' sovereignty over its territory and a transgression of efforts to find a peaceful settlement to end Iranian occupation of the three UAE islands," UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan was quoted as saying by WAM on Wednesday.
Abdullatif al-Zayani, head of the regional Gulf Cooperation Council, condemned the visit as "provocative" and a violation of UAE sovereignty, WAM reported.
The UAE also cancelled a friendly match with Iran's national soccer team which was due to be held on Tuesday in the Gulf Arab state, the UAE Football Association said on its website.
In Tehran, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian rejected the protests and said Ahmadinejad's visit was an "internal Iranian matter", the semi-official Fars news agency said.
Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was determined to improve bilateral ties and was ready for a dialogue with the UAE to resolve "possible misunderstandings".
The UAE has urged Tehran to agree to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague or engage in direct negotiations.
Iran says its sovereignty over the islands is not negotiable but has called for talks with the UAE to clear up "misunderstandings".
(Writing by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Andrew Roche)