Arabs lament lack of dialogue with West on Iran nuclear file

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Arab diplomats complained on Sunday about a lack of dialogue with the West over Iran s nuclear ambitions during a briefing on the crisis by EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh alongside French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and their counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The Arab countries wanted to be informed of the state of negotiations between Iran and six major world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – said an official who attended the talks.

Another participant said the Arab diplomats expressed deep concerns at the meeting and complained of insufficient dialogue between Arab countries and the six world powers on the standoff over Iran s nuclear drive.

Western nations led by the United States accuse Tehran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons but Iran vehemently denies the charges, saying its program is solely aimed at generating electricity.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir told the meeting that the nuclear crisis became a crisis (for the West) but for us the Iranian surge for hegemony has become a crisis, according to the participant who asked not to be named.

Sunni Arab governments like Egypt, Jordan and the six oil-rich Gulf monarchies have repeatedly expressed concerns over what they see as the growing influence of Shia Iran in the region, namely in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Iran is under three sets of UN sanctions for failing to heed international demands to halt uranium enrichment but the major powers have offered Tehran technological, economic and political incentives if it suspends the process. -AFP

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