Saudi Arabia's objections to the construction of a causeway that will link the UAE and Qatar could further strain inter-GCC relations and present an obstacle to the success of other regional projects, Gulf officials yesterday said.

The planned bridge is "an important step" towards integrating GCC member states, a Gulf diplomat told Gulf News. "It should not be opposed by another member. On the contrary, it should be encouraged and supported," he said on the condition of anonymity.

Saudi newspapers yesterday quoted Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Interior, as saying his country has raised its objections to Abu Dhabi and Doha over the bridge plans, saying it will pass through Saudi territorial waters.

The plan to build the bridge comes amid discussions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the 1974 border pact, agreed to shortly after the UAE was formed in 1971.

In August 1974, the two sides signed in Jeddah an agreement saying Riyadh will give up demands on Al Breimi oases, while on the other side, Abu Dhabi gave up Khour Al Adeed, a coastal area running at a length of 25km separating Abu Dhabi and Qatar. UAE and Saudi officials recently denied that was a disagreement over the borders.

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, recently said the dialogue on boundary issues between the UAE and Saudi Arabia will be completed during his visit to Saudi Arabia.

The visit is at the invitation of Prince Nayef, he said. Shaikh Hamdan, who is the Chairman of the Permanent UAE Boundaries Committee, said President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan had received a letter from Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Crown Prince, in connection with the boundaries between the two countries.

Prince Nayef delivered the letter to the President during his recent visit to the UAE.

"During Prince Nayef's visit, a brotherly, frank and transparent dialogue on certain boundary matters took place. The UAE said some parts of the 1974 boundary agreement can no longer be implemented. The UAE, therefore, presented fundamental amendments to these parts of the agreement," he said.

Shaikh Hamdan said: "The stance in this respect is not new, since the UAE has been expressing the same position since 1975."

Shaikh Hamdan reiterated the UAE's desire to reach a satisfactory settlement to these matters in the shortest time possible.

Prince Nayef said: "We and our brothers in the UAE are in good terms and we consider ourselves as one team working to resolve what is left of the 1974 agreement. We do not know the interests and motive of those who portray things in a different and untrue manner. Very soon they will find out that this matter has been settled because there is no difference, but only some points that have to be finalised in the agreement."

However, "regarding the bridge, Saudi Arabia had to deliver a protest note to the governments of Qatar and the Emirates because this is not acceptable, as this would pass through Saudi regional waters," he was quoted as saying.