Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE yesterday reaffirmed its historical ties with Iran and stressed its respect for the sovereignty of the neighbouring Islamic republic.

"Iran is a neighbouring country and we maintain historic relations with it," WAM quoted UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Tarek Al Haidan as saying. "The UAE respects and believes in the sovereignty of other states and in the principle of non-interference, of all forms, in their internal affairs," he added.

He was commenting on a report published yesterday by US daily The Washington Times, which quoted UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousuf Al Otaiba as telling an American audience on Tuesday that his country would support an American attack on Iran to stop Tehran's nuclear programme.

Al Haidan said the ambassador's statements "came as part of general discussions held on the sidelines of an unofficial gathering and were taken out of their context in which [Al] Otaiba was speaking", he said.

The Washington Times said the UAE ambassador has told the gathering that the US should confront Iran's nuclear ambitions. The paper said that "the ambassador in the end stressed that his country would not tolerate a nuclear Iran".

"The United States may be able to live with it. We can't," it quoted Al Otaiba as saying.

However, the UAE Foreign Ministry said the country's position was clear in calling for a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue. "Already, the UAE declared, more than one time and in official statements issued by the Foreign Ministry, its position on the Iranian nuclear issue," Al Haidan said.

"The UAE totally rejects the use of force as a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and rather calls for a solution through political means that are based on international legitimacy, transparency as well as the need to work through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on the right of all states to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The UAE, at the same time, believes in the need to keep the Gulf region free from nuclear weapons," Al Haidan noted.

Last month, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions in as many years on Iran over its nuclear programme.