UAE recalls Ambassador to Iran

Envoy has been pulled back for 'consultations' following Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's controversial visit to the disputed island of Abu Musa.

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The UAE has recalled its Ambassador to Tehran in a growing diplomatic spat over yesterday's visit by the Iranian president to the disputed island of Abu Musa.

The state news agency, WAM, reported that Saif Mohammed Obaid Al Zaabi had been pulled back "for consultations" following the controversial visit by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Along with Greater and Lesser Tunb, Abu Musa is one of three islands in the Gulf that are claimed by the UAE but were invaded by Iran on the eve of the UAE's foundation in 1971.

The UAE has repeatedly pressed its claim, directly with Iran and through international bodies.

The visit drew immediate condemnation from the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, who called it a "flagrant violation" of the UAE's sovereignty over its territories and a "setback" to the country's efforts to find a peaceful settlement to the issue.

"This visit will not change the legal status of these islands which are part and parcel of the UAE national soil," WAM quoted Sheikh Abdullah as saying.

He said the visit and the Iranian president's provocative rhetoric exposed the duplicity of Iran's assertion that it was keen to establish good relations in the region and friendship with the UAE.

He also denounced the timing of the visit, after the two countries had agreed to make renewed joint efforts to reach a solution to the issue.

The visit, he said, was a gross breach of this agreement.?Sheikh Abdullah called on Iran to refrain from provocative measures that muddy relations between the two countries and damage efforts to find a fair solution to the issue.

Yesterday, the Federal National Council denounced the visit in similar terms, calling it "a setback to all efforts made by the UAE to put an end to the occupation ... through direct negotiations or resorting to the International Court of Justice," WAM reported.

It, too, criticised Mr Ahmedinejad's "provocative rhetoric" and called on Iran "to cease such provocative steps and adopt peaceful approaches that could build confidence and help reach just settlement" concerning the islands.

During his visit, Mr Ahmedinjad claimed that all historical documents testified that the Gulf should rightfully be called the Persian Gulf.

"Since thousands of years ago, Iranian culture and civilisation has been dominant in a vast part of the world and it was natural to name places after this culture and civilisation," the Iranian state news  ?agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

It said he made the remarks before a  ?large crowd of people on Abu Musa.

He went on to criticise "certain powers" that have military bases in  ?the Gulf region, saying regional countries had to pay for establishing such bases.