Iraq's foreign minister has added fuel to the ongoing dispute about what to call the body of water west of Iran and east of Arab countries, saying that its historic name is the Gulf of Basra.

Iran insists that the "Persian Gulf" is the official and only name that should be used when referring to the Gulf waters lying between the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian plateau.

Most Arabs say that the correct name is the Arabian Gulf as its gentle waters lap off the shores of numerous Arab countries (the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iraq) bedside Iran.

On Saturday, Iraq's foreign minister said that the historic name is "the Gulf of Basra".

"We listened carefully to the debate about the naming of the Gulf, whether it is the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Gulf or the Gulf of Arab. In fact, we found out that it used to be called the Gulf of Basra," Hoshyar Zebari told the Manama Dialogue, an annual security conference in the Bahraini capital that brought together participants from 25 countries.

Basra is the capital of Basra Province, Iraq, and has an estimated population of 3,800,200.

The Iranians throughout the conference sessions and in all their speeches insisted on calling it the "Persian Gulf."

Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Bahrain's foreign minister, said that the issue should not be overplayed and that it was only about a body of water.

"I have heard a variety of names, such as Arabian Gulf, Gulf of the Arabs, Persian Gulf, etc. It is just a body of water," he said.

The Gulf has an area of 233,100 square kilometres and extends 970 kilometres from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman.

Iran in 2004 reacted angrily to a map of the Gulf in an issue of National Geographic that printed the name ‘Arabian Gulf’ next to “Persian Gulf" in reference to the body of water. Tehran said that it was banning the new edition of the atlas, as well as National Geographic journalists, until the map for the Gulf region was changed.