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World News

Iran summons UAE envoy over islands spat - official

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran summoned the United Arab Emirates charge d’affaires in Tehran over a war of words about three Gulf islands that both countries claim as their territory, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast at a news conference in Tehran November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files

“The UAE’s charge d’affaires was summoned to the foreign ministry and was issued a stern warning,” Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at a weekly press briefing in response to a question.

“There was also a meeting held in the UAE, and they were conveyed the displeasure of our officials towards their unmeasured statements,” he said.

The UAE’s highest diplomatic representative in Tehran is its ambassador.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan last month compared Iran’s control of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb islands to Israel’s occupation of Arab territories since 1967.

Tehran called the comments “brazen and impudent”. But Sheikh Abdullah repeated the comments in the Palestinian town of Ramallah, calling for Iran to end its “occupation”.

Arab states broadly back the UAE claim to the islands, which lie close to shipping lanes used for oil and gas export.

The UAE and non-Arab Iran have strong trade relations but diplomatic ties have been strained after Iran installed maritime offices on one of the disputed islands in 2008. Another source of diplomatic friction is Iran’s nuclear energy programme.

Gulf Arab governments share U.S. fears that Iran could become a nuclear weapons state.

Analysts say small Gulf Arab states offering facilities to the U.S. military could become Iranian targets if the nuclear dispute turns into a military confrontation.

Reporting by Hashem Kalantari, writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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