Senator: Iraq elections will afford
Gulf states 'precious opportunity'

Monday, December 6, 2004

ABU DHABI Iraq's political development is being closely watched by neighbhoring Gulf Arab states who have much to gain, and lose.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a leading member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Iraqi stability marked the key challenge facing Gulf Cooperation Council states. Hagel told a conference in Manama over the weekend that the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq could determine stability in both that country as well as in the rest of the region.

"The success of these developments will require more from Gulf states, who must not let this precious opportunity be squandered by lack of commitment or clear vision," Hagel told the Gulf security conference on Dec. 3.

Defense ministers and other officials from Western nations met their GCC counterparts in a discussion that included security and military cooperation, Middle East Newsline reported.

The conference, organized by Bahrain and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, reviewed threats to the Gulf region.

"The Gulf region represents a vital asset in the regional and international security equation," Bahrain Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa said.

Al Khalifa agreed with Hagel's assessment and called for regional and international cooperation in the war against Al Qaida and its allies. The foreign minister also stressed the need for Iraq to restore security and stability.

Speakers also called for a nuclear-free region in the Gulf and Middle East. Many of them welcomed the European Union effort to extract an Iranian pledge to temporarily suspend uranium enrichment. said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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