* Washington signals optimism on Iran nuclear talks
* Reaffirms resolve to defend allies against Iran missiles
* Gulf Arabs should coordinate missile defence - official
By Praveen Menon and Rania El Gamal
ABU DHABI, April 27 A senior U.S. official
signalled optimism on Sunday about a possible resolution of the
Iranian nuclear dispute but said Washington remained concerned
that Iran's ballistic missiles threatened Gulf Arab states.
Frank Rose, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for
space and defense policy, said Washington was "acutely" aware of
Gulf Arab states' anxieties about Iran and wanted to help them
launch a Gulf-wide coordinated missile defence capability.
"We are optimistic that we'll have a successful resolution
of the Iran nuclear issue ... but that doesn't downgrade our
concern about Iran's other bad behaviours, specifically their
support for terrorism as well as their continued development of
ballistic missile capabilities," Rose told reporters on the
sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi on missiles and defence.
"As long as Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles
that can threaten the United States or deployed forces and our
friends and allies in the region, we will work effectively with
our partners here in the UAE as well as the rest of the Gulf to
defend against that threat."
Iran has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle
East, viewing it as an essential precautionary defence against
the United States and other adversaries such as Israel.
The United States and its allies fret that such missiles
could potentially carry nuclear warheads.
The Islamic Republic denies accusations that it is seeking a
capability to make nuclear weapons. It insists that the missiles
are part of its conventional armed forces and rules out
including them on the agenda of the nuclear discussions.
Rose said the priority for United States in the region was
to develop a coordinated missile defence system for Gulf Arab
states, something the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation
Missiles are not at the heart of the talks over Iran's
nuclear work, which centre on the production of fissile material
usable in atomic bombs, and Rose made no comments as to whether
the topic should be part of the discussions.
Washington and Tehran earlier this year set out contrasting
positions on whether missiles should be raised at all during
talks on a long-term solution to Iran's nuclear work that are
supposed to yield an agreement by late July.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, a senior member of
Tehran's negotiating team, was in February quoted by state media
as saying Iran's defence issues were not negotiable and it had
no intention of discussing missile capabilities with the powers.
However, a senior U.S. official noted that a U.N. Security
Council resolution adopted in 2010 banned all activity by Iran
related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear
weapons, adding: "In some way, this will have to be addressed."
Retired Major General Khaled al-Bu Ainnain, a former
commander of UAE Air Force and Air Defense, told the conference
Gulf Arab states must improve their anti-missile capabilities.
"Today if there's a cruise missile passing through Qatar and
going to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, how to share this information
with neighbouring countries? There has to be central operating
procedures ... We don't have that," Bu Ainnain said.
He played down fears of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
"Is Iran going to do a nuclear (bomb)? I personally don't
think so. Even if it acquired nuclear (weapons), will it use it?
It will never use it," he said.
(Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by William Maclean and