Dubai The six foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were to hold a special meeting in Doha Tuesday to discuss the issue of the three UAE islands occupied by Iran, and the recent "provocative and irresponsible" visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to one of the occupied UAE islands of Abu Mousa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

GCC officials stressed that the meeting, chaired by Saudi Arabia, which currently chairs the bloc, will express its full support for the UAE. Analysts expect a "coordinated GCC policy toward Iran".

"No questions about it and without argument, the bloc will support the UAE, because it is the UAE and because it is right," said Sa'ad Al Ammar, GCC assistant secretary-general for political affairs.

Al Ammar told Gulf News that it was possible to anticipate what the meeting will come out with.

Coherent, coordinated foreign policy

However, Abdul Aziz Al Saqr, chairman of the Gulf Research Centre, hoped the meeting will come up with "a coherent and coordinated foreign policy towards Iran," noting that each Gulf state has a different approach towards Iran. Apart from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the bloc is also made up of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

Today's meeting comes two days after the UAE recalled its ambassador to Iran for "consultations", following Ahmadinejad's visit to Abu Mousa — one of the three UAE islands occupied by Iran since 1971.

The other two islands are the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

International tribunal

Tehran claims that the occupied islands are part of Iran, rejecting all efforts by the UAE over the years to resolve the dispute through negotiations or by referring the matter to an international tribunal and the International Court of Justice.

Al Ammar said Ahmadinejad's visit to the occupied island "was surely irresponsible and [a] provocative" step by Iran.

On Sunday, the GCC issued a statement strongly condemning the Iranian move, and called the visit a "violation of UAE sovereignty", and "not in line with the GCC policy of maintaining good neighbourly relations with Iran."

The bloc urged Tehran to refrain from interfering in the affairs of the GCC.

The Arab Group at the United Nations has supported the UAE and condemned the Iranian president's visit to the occupied island.

However, Iran has described the visit as an "internal issue". Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi stressed on his country's reluctance to discuss the three issues, which he says are not open for discussion.

"We hope that the other sides act with patience, perseverance, insight and prudence regarding the misunderstandings that could arise, or else issues will become very complicated," he said of today's meeting.

'Confusing signals'

Al Saqr, however, noted that Salehi's statement is another example of the "confusing signals" the Islamic republic is sending to its Arab neighbours.

The timing of Ahmadinejad's visit "was not a coincidence, nor the aim was haphazard."

Coming on the eve of Iran's talks with the western powers over the country's controversial nuclear programme, Al Saqr said: "Ahmadinejad wanted to test the western waters, and check which is more important for the west, the Iranian nuclear issue, or the domestic Gulf issues."

He added that no single statement from any western country had been issued over the visit. Iran was also sending a "message to the Arab Gulf Countries to ask them not to challenge it in Syria," Al Saqr said.

While GCC has condemned the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad for the way it handled protests, which are now in the 13th month, Iran has maintained support for the regime of its only Arab ally.

Saudi Arabia: Cabinet denounces visit

The Saudi Cabinet Monday denounced the visit carried out by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad to the occupied island of Abu Mousa, which has been occupied by Iran since 1971.

In a statement issued at the conclusion of its meeting chaired by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, the cabinet said that Ahmadinejad's visit was a flagrant violation of the UAE's sovereignty.

The cabinet statement added that the visit was a setback to different efforts to reach a peaceful settlement in resolving the issue of the occupied UAE islands of Abu Mousa, Greater and Lesser Tunbs through direct negotiations or by resorting to referring the matter to the International Court of Justice.