In wake of WikiLeaks, Iran tells Gulf Arabs: We're not a threat to Mideast
Iran FM tries to lower tensions with Gulf Arab leaders after a WikiLeaks cable reported they are worried about Tehran's nuclear program.
Iran told Gulf Arab states on Saturday it was not a threat and wanted cooperation, in an apparent attempt to lower tension after revelations that Gulf Arab leaders are deeply anxious about its nuclear program.
In his first trip to the region since WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables reporting Gulf Arab worries about Tehran, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a Gulf security conference in Bahrain a more powerful Iran was nothing to fear.
"Our power in the region is your power and your power in the region is our power," he said in a speech to an audience including Gulf Arab ministers and officials.
"Our growth will only pave the way for others to grow."
Gulf Arab reaction was muted.
A senior official of a Gulf Arab state security service said Gulf Arabs would be concerned about Iran until it dealt "openly" with the international community over its nuclear activities.
The West suspects these activities are aimed at developing an atomic arsenal. Iran denies this, saying it is enriching uranium only for civilian nuclear energy, not atom bombs.
The Gulf Arab position reflected the concerns of the UN nuclear watchdog, not those of Washington, the senior official said.
His comments were echoed by United Arab Emirates political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, who said: "I don't think what you heard is anything out of the ordinary.
"Iran is a very difficult neighbor and will always be so. And when it projects its power, it can be a bullying power."
A Gulf Arab government minister said privately of Iran: "We are scared."
Mottaki's speech made no reference to the publication by the WikiLeaks website last week of hundreds of U.S. embassy cables including several quoting Arab leaders as expressing strong opposition to the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
He said, "We must not allow Western media to tell us what we think of one another .... We have never used our potential to become powerful against any neighbors especially because our neighbors are Muslims," he told the conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in London.
One notable WikiLeaks document cited Saudi King Abdullah as urging the United States to attack Iran's nuclear installations. He was reported to have advised Washington to "cut off the head of the snake" while there was still time.
The leaked U.S. cables underlined the depth of suspicion of Shi'ite Muslim Iran and its nuclear program among Sunni Arab leaders, especially Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter.
Mottaki said Iran's neighbors should not submit to pressures from outsiders that stoked "unhealthy rivalries" and weakened the region's drive for self-sufficiency, and the region
had nothing to fear from Iran's nuclear energy development.
Iranian officials meet major powers in Geneva on Monday in talks expected to cover Iran's nuclear program, the first such talks in a year. The powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- want Iran to curb uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is for purely peaceful purposes.
In Tehran, Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili said Iran welcomed the Dec. 6-7 talks as a way to start improving relations but would not negotiate away its nuclear "rights".
Giving concrete details about Gulf Arab achievements that Iran supported, Mottaki said Tehran was happy to see Gulf Arab nations discussing economic cooperation among themselves.
He added: "We are happy when we see women enter parliaments in Kuwait and Bahrain, and when the petrochemical industry in Saudi Arabia has become very advanced in the world, and when Bahrain becomes a banking centre. We are happy to see the balances of Arab countries reach two trillion dollars and that Iraq is nearing stability and the oil industry is flourishing."
At a news conference later, Mottaki suggested the leaks should not be taken at face value.
"We believe they should not mislead others," said, referring to Western officials. "Experts should consider the reasons why these documents have been released."