Gulf Arabs seek ways to counter Iran threat. At six-nation summit, leaders urge implementation of UN cease-fire
Manama, Bahrain — Amid signs the Gulf war is escalating, leaders of Arab Gulf countries yesterday called for implementation of a UN Security Council cease-fire resolution and criticized Iran for ``aggression'' against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. But the rulers of the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also held out an olive branch to the Islamic Republic, asking Tehran to ``respond to the will of the international community and the call of the Islamic nation'' to end the war.
They urged Iran to ``commit itself to the principles of good neighborliness and mutual respect to keep the Gulf region free from international conflict,'' according to the official communiqu'e of the four-day summit in Riyadh.
The GCC's call for new movement at the United Nations follows reports last week that Soviet officials are reconsidering their reluctance to support a US-backed arms embargo against Iran. The US has pushed for such sanctions because Iran failed to abide by the council's July 20 cease-fire demand.
In another development, US officials are now saying they will reconsider their opposition to a Soviet proposal to establish a UN naval peacekeeping force in the Gulf, provided the Soviets support an arms embargo.
The summit meeting - involving the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait - was held against a backdrop of escalation in the seven-year war between Iran and Iraq. So far this month, more than 20 commerical ships have been attacked in the Gulf by the two warring nations. And Iran is reportedly preparing a major attack on Iraq's second largest city, Basra.
Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara returned to Tehran today for his second trip in a week in what some reports suggest is a Gulf-backed mediation bid by Syrian President Hafez Assad.
Mr. al-Shara went to Tehran on Dec. 22 to deliver a message to Iranian President Ali Khamenei from the Syrian President. Then, over the weekend, al-Shara made an unexpected flight to Riyadh to meet with Saudi King Fahd just as the summit was beginning. There was no announcement about the content of that meeting, and the GCC final communiqu'e made no mention of an Arab peace mission to Iran. But in Amman yesterday, it was announced that Syria and Iraq were preparing to open a long-closed border post as a step toward better relations.
Gulf leaders at the Arab summit in Jordan last month appealed to the Mr. Assad to use his good ties to Iran to help end the war. Details are not clear, but the Gulf states were said to have agreed to a lucrative aid program for Syria as an inducement.
The GCC leaders expressed their strong support of the recent ``Palestinian uprising'' in Israeli-occupied territories. They said it points up the need for an international peace conference on the Palestinian question ``with participation of all concerned parties including the Palestine Liberation Organization.''
On the defense and security front, the Arab leaders moved closer to a unified GCC strategy aimed at counterbalancing threats from Iran. No specific details were provided at the conclusion of the summit, but discussions are said to have centered on adopting similar tactics and weapons, and on the possibility of establishing a Gulf Arab arms industry.
The final communiqu'e also did not mention future cooperation with Egypt, which is seen as an important new force helping to protect the Gulf states. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will tour the Gulf next month, when he is expected to begin talks with each GCC head of state on Egyptian-Gulf military cooperation.
The full extent of future Egyptian military involvement in the Gulf remains unclear. President Mubarak has said Egypt will stand by the Gulf states in times of danger, and Egyptian military advisors have already been sent to Kuwait. But many analysts say the Egyptians remain extremely reluctant to commit combat troops to the region.