GCC urges nuke-free Mideast

ABU DHABI (AFP) — The Middle East should be turned into a nuclear-free region, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council said Monday, voicing concern over Israel’s and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The heads of the oil-rich six-member bloc “appealed to the international community to make the Middle East, including the Gulf region, a zone free of weapons of mass destruction” at the conclusion of a two-day annual summit.

In their final statement, the leaders called on “Israel to adhere to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to open all its nuclear installations for international inspection.”

Amid mounting international pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme, GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman Attiyah urged Tehran to join the group in its pledge to keep the region free of nuclear weapons.

The United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister demanded environmental “guarantees and protection” from an Iranian nuclear plant on the Gulf coast following the summit.

“We are in a region very close to the [Iranian] nuclear reactor in Bushehr. We have no guarantees or protection against any leakage [from the reactor] which is on the Gulf coast,” Abdullah Rashid Nuaimi said.

“We want guarantees and protection.”

Bushehr is being built by Russia, which also this month signed an agreement with Tehran for the supply of sophisticated mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems.

The UAE minister commented on a message from Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa to the GCC summit, in which Musa expressed his “concerns about Israel’s nuclear programme.”

“We share his concerns… but we in the Gulf also have our own concerns and fears,” Nuaimi said.

“I hope that Amr Musa would take into consideration the six [GCC] member states when he talks about the concerns of the Arabs,” he added, in reference to Iran’s nuclear programme.

The United States believes Iran’s nuclear programme is a cover for weapons making. Tehran insists its nuclear facilities are designed for civilian energy purposes.

Israel is widely believed to possess around 200 nuclear warheads, making it the only nuclear power in the Middle East, although it has never admitted to having atomic weapons.

Tensions have risen between the Jewish state and the Islamic republic in recent months after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and described the Holocaust as “a myth.”

The GCC also applauded the legislative elections in Iraq and hoped that the results “would turn a new page in the history of Iraq which would secure the territorial integrity of Iraq and its stability.”

All heads of GCC states, comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, attended the summit, with the exception of the ailing emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Ahmad Sabah, who was represented by Prime Minister Sabah Ahmad Sabah.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed Nahayan said Sunday that GCC members had to move more rapidly to integrate their economies and reform their educational and political systems in order to meet the aspirations of their people.

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