Iran, UAE ink accord despite islands dispute




"The creation of this commission is an important step in bilateral relations," Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at a joint press conference with his visiting Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

"The inking of this agreement is the result of the historical visit of the Iranian president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), and as of today a new horizon opens up in our relations that needs the offorts of both sides to grow," Nahyan said.

The minister was referring to the visit by Ahmadinejad to the United Arab Emirates in May 2007, the first by a head of the state from the Islamic republic.

Iran’s ambassador to the UAE, Hamid Reza Asefi, told reporters the "joint commission will be headed by the two nations’ foreign ministers and it will tackle different issues," but without going into details.

UAE is Iran’s largest trading partner in the Gulf, but the two countries have a longstanding dispute over the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.

Iran took control of the islands after British forces withdrew from the Gulf in 1971.

In February 2008, the UAE prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum, visited Tehran making him the most senior Emirati official to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution in a bid to further boost trade links.

UAE is Iran’s top trading partner and there are an estimated 450,000 Iranians living there. About 10,000 Iranian firms operate in the country, chiefly Dubai, according to Iranian figures.

Iran’s statistics put bilateral trade at 11.7 billion dollars in the Iranian year which ended in March 2007, with imports from the UAE forming the bulk of the exchanges at 9.2 billion dollars.




Bush accepts Saudi invitation to UN faith talks


AFP: US President George W. Bush has accepted Saudi King Abdullah’s personal invitation to attend a November 13 UN inter-faith conference, the White House said Wednesday.

Bush "appreciates King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia’s initiative in calling for this dialogue and remains committed to fostering interfaith harmony among all religions, both at home and abroad," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The New York meeting, which aims to promote dialogue among the world’s monotheistic religions, will be a follow up to an inter-faith conference held in Madrid in July which was spurred by an initiative by King Abdullah.

"The United States affirms its support for individual religious freedom, the right to practice one’s religion, the equality of all people regardless of their religious faith, and the other principles of religious freedom enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Perino.

A US official, who declined to be identified, said Bush was going "at the personal invitation of the king," whose country does not permit the public practice of religions other than Islam.



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