Arabs disagree with U.S. on Iran: Amr Mousa

May 23, 2006 - 0:0
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) -- The Arab League chief Amr Mousa has said that the American claims regarding Iran's nuclear program have no credibility in the Arab world.

Speaking at a news conference at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, Mousa demanded that all such allegations be supported by proof from the IAEA.

He further declared that Arabs desired a region that was free of nuclear weapons, including the arsenal that Israel is believed to possess.

"The Middle East does not need a military nuclear program, be it Iranian, Israeli or any other. Our goal and interest is to have a region free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction," said Mousa.

Bahrain backs Iran right to civilian nuclear work

U.S. ally Bahrain also said on Sunday it recognized Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes but wanted the region to be free of atomic weapons, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month the six Persian Gulf Arab states called on Iran to do more to allay fears over its nuclear program, but Bahrain's deputy prime minister said that should not be a pretext for depriving Iran of civilian nuclear technology.

"Our position on the nuclear issue is very clear. We want the Persian Gulf region to be free of nuclear arms, not nuclear know-how," Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid al-Khalifa told Reuters in an interview.

"On nuclear arms, we are concerned, but the Iranians say they are not going to do that. We are saying that we don't mind Iran developing its (nuclear) capability for peaceful purposes," he said on the sidelines of the business forum in Egypt.

"We think every country in the world has a right to develop nuclear capability for peaceful means," Sheikh Abdullah said.

"Iran is an important neighbor and we always want good relations with Iran," he said.

"Let the IAEA decide on that and let the world take a position on it. I'm not going to comment on something on the assumptions," he said.

Russia and Saudi Arabia also said on Sunday that they were in agreement in opposing sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program while favoring more diplomacy to resolve the standoff.

"I do not think we have yet exhausted a diplomatic solution to this issue, so the talk about other options and sanctions is premature and will not produce the desired results," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said during a joint press conference with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"As I have always said many times before there is no instance in contemporary history where sanctions have worked and produced the desired results," Lavrov said in reference to UN sanctions slapped on Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Lavrov said Russia seeks greater coordination with Persian Gulf Arab countries over the Iranian issue.

Iran's Arab neighbors plan to send a delegation to Iran to discuss the nuclear program, Kuwait's foreign minister said on Sunday.

"The team will reiterate the need for Iran to completely cooperate with the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Sheikh Mohammad al-Salem al-Sabah told a joint news conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Franz-Walter Steinmeier.

"The team ... is part of the (P)GCC's efforts to deal with this issue through the process of working and talking with our friends in Tehran about the importance of the issue," he added.

Steinmeier, on a 5-day Persian Gulf tour, said the international community was yet to be convinced about Iran's nuclear program.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also on Monday discussed Iran’s nuclear issue with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, AFP reported from Beijing.

"We talked about Iran and both agreed Iran should not have the capability to make nuclear weapons and shouldn't proliferate weapons of mass destruction," Merkel told a joint press conference with Wen.

"China and Germany agree that the conflict must be solved on a diplomatic level and Iran must return to the international community," she said after those talks.

German officials had said before Merkel's trip that Germany would like to see China more closely involved in the international efforts to solve the nuclear crisis in Iran.

China, which is a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, opposes sanctions against Iran.