US sympathizes with UAE in Iran island rift

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iran flagWASHINGTON (AFP)— The United States on Tuesday urged Iran to enter talks with the United Arab Emirates over Gulf territorial disputes as it criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for visiting a contested island.

The firebrand Iranian president visited Abu Musa island and declared that historical documents proved “the Persian Gulf is Persian,” triggering a protest by the United Arab Emirates and condemnation by other Gulf Arab monarchies.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States supported “a peaceful resolution” over the three islands and backed the UAE call for the issue to be resolved through talks or at the International Court of Justice.

“The United States appreciates the UAE’s efforts in this regard and urges Iran to respond positively to the UAE’s initiative to resolve the issue through direct negotiations,” Toner said in a statement.

“Actions such as the April 11 visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to the Abu Musa island only complicate efforts to settle the issue,” he said.

The trip came amid high tension between Iran and several of its pro-US Arab neighbors as well as with Israel, which fears that the clerical regime in Tehran is developing a nuclear weapon and has not ruled out a military strike.

Iran has called Ahmadinejad’s trip a purely domestic issue. Iran, then ruled by the pro-Western shah, gained control of the islands in 1971 when Britain granted independence to its Gulf protectorates and withdrew its forces.

Abu Musa, the only inhabited island of the three, was placed under joint administration in a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.

Abu Dhabi says the Iranians have since taken control of the entire island — which controls access to the oil-rich Gulf — and have built an airport and military base there.

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