Kuwait City: The West is "provoking" Iran on the nuclear issue at a time when "dialogue, not escalation" is needed, said the parliament Speaker of Kuwait in remarks published on Monday.

Kuwait has been a major ally of Washington since the US-led 1991 Gulf War liberated it from Iraqi occupation, but fears being caught in the middle of any conflict between its neighbour Iran and the West. "What is happening is that there are provocative Western statements, and Iran responds in the same way," Jassem Al Kharafi said in an interview with state-owned Kuwait TV.

"I believe that a matter this sensitive needs dialogue not escalation, and it shouldn't be dealt with as if Iran were one of America's states," he said.

Kuwait's government has said it will not allow its territories to be used for military action against Iran.


Tehran denies accusations by the United States and its allies that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, maintaining its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Al Kharafi said Iran "realises" the area cannot take such tensions.

Though the White House has asserted repeatedly that it prefers diplomacy to war, the administration of President George W. Bush has recently said it is strengthening its military presence in the strategic Gulf region to counter Iran and is prepared to use force.

Iran last week tested ballistic missiles and has upped its threats to destroy Israel if the Jewish state attacks its nuclear sites.