UAE 'astonished' by Iran's claims of mistreatment

The foreign ministry has expressed "astonishment" at Iranian claims that its nationals are facing mistreatment.

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The foreign ministry has expressed "astonishment" at Iranian claims that its nationals are facing mistreatment as they try to enter the Emirates. A ministry official said the airports used state-of-the-art security systems to screen all passengers, irrespective of their citizenship. The statement by an unnamed foreign ministry official was released last night by the state news agency WAM and comes at a time of heightened diplomatic tensions between the two nations, stemming from the disputed sovereignty over three UAE islands occupied by the Islamic republic.

The official said the ministry was astonished by the "general remarks of the Iranian government [made] without specifying any particular incident". The UAE is prepared to look into any grievances of specific passengers, he said. The discord between the two countries mounted this week when Iran issued a formal letter of complaint over the alleged mistreatment of its citizens. The UAE's chargé d'affaires in Tehran was summoned to the foreign ministry on Monday to hear the protest.

Mohammad Javad Rassouli, the director general for Iranian nationals' affairs overseas, was reported to have said the UAE "has insulted Iranian nationals and created unusual obstacles for them". Iran, meanwhile, accused the GCC of meddling in its affairs by condemning its position on the disputed island of Abu Musa. "All our country's measures on Abu Musa are completely legal," a foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Ghashghavi, said in a statement released by IRNA, the Islamic republic's official news agency.

Foreign ministers from the GCC have urged Iran to respect the UAE's sovereignty over the island. But Mr Ghashghavi said the GCC was interfering "in Iran's internal affairs" and said the UAE's claims were "unfounded and rejected". The UAE has repeatedly proposed resolving the dispute through direct negotiation or international arbitration. The three islands were seized by Iran in 1971. However, Iran signed a memorandum of understanding with Sharjah in November of that year that officials say acknowledged the UAE's sovereignty over Abu Musa.

The dispute came to a head on Aug 11 this year when Iranian state television reported the country had erected a marine rescue centre and a registration office on the island. Last month, the UAE lodged a letter of protest at the United Nations. * With additional reporting from agencies and WAM