GCC foreign ministers approve principles to settle Yemen’s crisis

GCC proposal urges Yemen’s president to transfer powers to his deputy, form national government

Gulf meeting rejects Iranian officials’ statements that “only serve sedition”

Bahrain reiterates any interference in its affairs

Oman, Egypt express support for Bahrain’s security, stability

Kuwait denies it officially apologized to Iran over spy crisis

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers called on the Yemeni government and opposition to meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss a smooth power transition in forming a government of national unity to ultimately word a new constitution, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

The foreign ministers, at the end of their second extraordinary meeting within a week, renewed the invitation to the Yemeni government and opposition to discuss principles that were outlined in a final statement.

GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani, reading the statement, said the principles stated that the President of the Republic transfer his authorities to his deputy and forming a government of national unity to be chaired by the opposition.

This government, added Al-Zayani, will be responsible for running the political, security and economic affairs of Yemen, wording a new constitution and holding elections.

He called for a smooth and secured transition in Yemen in a way that would prevent chaos and violence.

He said the Yemeni parties should commit to removing political and security tension.

The agreement to be reached by the Yemeni parties should meet aspirations of the Yemeni people.

The foreign ministers also reiterated concern for the political tension and security deterioration in Yemen, as well as loss of lives.

The foreign ministers' meeting was specifically aimed at discussing the situation in Yemen.

Kuwait was represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Mohammad Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.

Gulf Arab foreign ministers met in the Saudi capital to discuss Iranian interference after Arab world unrest spilled over into some of the region's Western-backed monarchies.

Abdullatif al-Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council's new secretary general, condemned "Iran's meddling in the internal affairs of GCC countries" on the eve of the meeting, saying it "threatened security and stability in the region".

The Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee had said that "Saudi Arabia should know it's better not to play with fire in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf."

But the conservative Sunni monarchy slammed what it described as an "irresponsible" statement containing "void allegations and blatant offense against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

The Iranian statement "fuels sectarianism," the Saudi Consultative Council said according to state news agency SPA. "While we are witnessing numerous blatant Iranian interventions in the region's affairs, Iran accuses the kingdom of interventions."

Saudi Arabia led a joint Gulf force that entered Bahrain last month, enabling authorities to quell a month-long, Shiite-led protest demanding democratic reforms in the kingdom.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, the GCC groups Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Iran's foreign ministry said the tension between Tehran and Arab neighbors was the result of a "Western and Zionist conspiracy" aimed at "sowing discord between Islamic countries."

"We advise regional governments to heed the demands of their people in order to stop such conspiracies," said ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, while insisting "unity" among Muslims was the key issue for Iran.

Demonstrators in Bahrain appeared to have been inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt where protests succeeded in ousting the strongmen leaders.

Protests also spread to the normally placid sultanate of Oman where demonstrators demanded better living conditions, without challenging the rule of Sultan Qaboos who has been in power since 1970.

A call for a nationwide protest in the Saudi kingdom last month, however, did not materialize.

Riyadh responded to Iran's warning by slamming Tehran for "fuelling confessional tensions (in the region) and failing to respect the norms of good neighborliness as in the case of Kuwait where a spy cell has been uncovered."

Kuwait said it was to expel an unspecified number of Iranian diplomats for alleged links to a spy ring working for Tehran, reportedly ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A Kuwaiti court passed a death sentence on three members of the alleged ring, to which Tehran denied any links.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, said his Kuwaiti counterpart would brief the meeting on the details of the alleged Iranian spy ring.

"Any action (against Iran) must be taken in a collective manner and after a thorough study, and must take into consideration the security and stability of the GCC," Sheikh Abdullah told Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas.

He said Iranian behavior regarding the spy ring would "complicate matters between GCC states and Iran".

Tension between GCC countries and Shiite Iran had heightened after Manama accused Tehran of meddling in its internal affairs when it slammed Bahrain's decision to bring in Gulf troops.

The two countries recalled their ambassadors and expelled diplomats.

"We reject (Iran's) call to withdraw the Peninsula Shield force from Bahrain, and consider it interference in Bahraini internal affairs," said Bahraini Zayani in a statement.

"These forces are in Bahrain due to the uncovering of a foreign-backed criminal plot that aimed to shake the security and stability in Bahrain and overthrowing its regime," he said.

At least 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in a month of unrest in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, Egypt said Gulf states' Arab identity is a "red line" after they accused Iran of trying to destabilize Bahrain, while praising a Saudi-led force that quelled pro-democracy protests there.

In a statement, Egypt's foreign minister Nabil al-Arabi said "the stability and Arabism of the Arab Gulf countries is a red line against which Egypt rejects any trespass."

The statement was in response to a Gulf ministerial meeting that accused Iran of interfering in Bahrain and Kuwait in a bid to destabilize the region.

The protests in Bahrain were spearheaded by the country's marginalized Shiite majority, prompting Gulf states to accuse Shiite Iran of orchestrating the protests in the Sunni-led country.

The government says 24 people including four policemen were killed in the crackdown, which according to the United Nations saw arbitrary arrests and killings and seizure of medical facilities.

Bahraini police have been reinforced with more than 1,000 armored troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, but the foreign forces have kept a low profile.

Arabi said that Gulf countries "succeeded in moving in a coordinated fashion to preserve the security of Bahrain, giving a practical application to the concept of collective security in the Gulf region."

The minister, himself appointed to his post by virtue of a pro-democracy movement that toppled the former regime in February, also "welcomed the results of the latest ministerial meeting for the Gulf Cooperation Council."

Egypt itself has had no formal diplomatic relations with Iran for decades but Arabi said earlier this week his country wished to improve ties with the Islamic republic.

In Muscat, HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Isa’ee, Chairman of the Shura Council, received at the Shura headquarters Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Dhahrani, Chairman of the House of Representatives of Bahrain, who is on an official one-day visit to the Sultanate.

During the meeting, cordial conversations were exchanged.

The meeting reviewed frameworks of the good bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and the sincere efforts being exerted by the Sultanate to support and achieve security and stability in Bahrain. The meeting also touched on the role of Shura Council and the House of Representatives in dealing with developments and situations being witnessed by the regional and Arab arenas, in addition to discussing a number of issues of common concern.

Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Dhahrani arrived in Muscat and was received by Isa’ee, HE Abdulqadir Bin Salim Al Dhahab, Secretary-General of the council, officials at the council and the ambassador of Bahrain to the Sultanate.

On the other hand, Kuwaiti Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Roudhan Al-Roudhan again dismissed “claims” by “MP Musallam Al-Barrak” in which he said Al-Roudhan went to the Iranian Embassy in Kuwait to apologize over the “Iranian espionage network.” “I confirm that these claims are fabricated and totally false,” said Al-Roudhan.

Al-Roudhan said he was ready to meet MP Al-Barrak in public “to swear over the Holy Quran” to know “who is the truthful and who is the liar ....” If the “claims and accusations of Musallam Al-Barrak proved to be true, I vow before the Kuwaiti people to resign from the National Assembly, but Al-Barrak should have the courage to resign ... too if he fails to prove his dangerous accusations,” said Al-Roudhan.

Meanwhile, the Iranian government urges that Kuwait should maintain cordial relations with Iran, even as the country is expecting Kuwait to notify its embassy of the list of names of diplomats to expel, as announced by the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr Mohammad Al-Sabah recently, reports Al-Anba daily.

A diplomatic source said any expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Kuwait will meet similar reaction from the Iranian side and hopes the two governments will take mutual interests and extended cooperation into consideration before taking any steps. He refuted media report that Iran will send a top-level delegation to visit Kuwait over the issue.

In a new twist that affirms the determination of GCC countries to repel Iran’s undue meddling in their internal affairs, the six-nation bloc is considering the possibility of severing relations with Iran at all levels, reports Al-Seyassah daily.

A diplomatic source said Kuwait notified Iranian Embassy’s Charge’ D’affaires about government’s intention to expel four diplomats and asked them to leave the country as soon as possible.

He disclosed that governments of all GCC countries decided to sever diplomatic, economic and oil ties with Iran and stated that these countries will shut down Iranian embassies, expel diplomats and deport several Iranian employees from the region. He said the governments realized that many of the employees work as spies and conspirators and noted that Lebanon-based Hezbollah was working on the orders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to ensure instability in the region.

He said the spy cells discovered in Kuwait and other parts of the Gulf region are not different from many other Israeli spy groups operating in Lebanon, Egypt and the UAE.

The National Assembly will be dissolved within two months after the reappointment of HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, reports Al-Jarida daily quoting MP Khalid Al-Sultan.

Al-Sultan believes the crises and lapses, which will be followed by interpellation and a vote of no-confidence against the premier, will lead to the dissolution of the assembly and early elections.

He contended the allegation of some ruling family members that lawmakers are targeting Sheikh Nasser is irrelevant to the case presented by the opposition, because it focuses on the failure of his government in many aspects.

He clarified he has no intention to participate in any interpellation of the prime minister. He also appealed to the National Action Bloc to prioritize the interests of the nation.

Asserting the nation is in dire need of a competent government head with the capability to lead the country towards development despite the regional challenges, Al-Sultan cited the discovery of the Iranian spy network as a case in point, stressing this is a dangerous issue that necessitates a strong and competent leader.