DAMASCUS, March 30 Arab leaders supported the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday in its territorial dispute
with Iran and called for a peaceful solution, but the Islamic
republic dismissed the statement as interference in its affairs.
A Damascus Declaration at the end of a summit of 22 Arab
states in the Syrian capital urged the UAE to seek "legal and
peaceful ways to regain" three Islands in the Gulf controlled by
non-Arab Iran and claimed by the UAE.
The declaration said resolving the dispute in the Gulf, a
crucial outlet for world crude oil supply, would help improve
relations between the Arab world and Iran.
In Tehran, the official Iranian news agency quoted an
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the UAE's claims
were "vain and baseless".
"The interference of third parties stemming from their
misunderstanding of the dialogue between the Islamic Republic of
Iran and the Emirates is unacceptable and will not help it,"
spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
"The three islands are an inseparable part of Iranian
territory," he added.
Iranian influence in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon,
overshadowed preparations for the summit. Conservative Arab
states are uncomfortable with the rise of Iran after the U.S.
invasion of Iraq.
Addressing the summit on Saturday, Libyan leader Muammar
Gaddafi urged fellow Arab leaders to improve ties with Iran and
said the UAE should seek international arbitration to solve the
dispute over the islands.
Gaddafi said it was not wise to provoke Iran, pointing to a
sizeable Iranian minority in pro-U.S. Gulf states.
U.S. President George W. Bush tried to shore up Arab Gulf
support against Iran on a visit to the region in January and
said Iran remained a threat despite a U.S. intelligence report
that said Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme.
But Gulf states have expressed little public backing for
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; editing by Sami Aboudi)