Dubai: French warnings of a possible war over Iran’s nuclear drive have set alarm bells ringing in neighbouring Arab monarchies of the Gulf, a region which has endured three major conflicts since 1980.
Several Gulf newspapers accused France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of following in footsteps of Britain’s former premier Tony Blair and playing into the hands of the United States.
“French policy is apparently headed toward filling the vacuum left by Britain after Tony Blair’s exit from power... to become the new subordinate to US policy,” wrote Qatar’s Al-Watan.
This would afflict France with “the American sickness” of lacking credibility and vision, the daily said.
In UAE, the Gulf News charged that Kouchner, “a former peace activist, is playing into the hands of the US administration which cannot seem to get out of the Iraq mess.”
Kouchner warned that the world should brace for war with Iran over its controversial nuclear drive, drawing sharp reactions from Tehran which insists the programme is for purely civilian energy purpose.
“We do not take these declarations seriously. Comments to the media are different to the real positions,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters. UAE’s Khaleej Times urged France’s “hyperactive” President Nicolas Sarkozy to remember that attempts to resolve disputes by military means have failed elsewhere in the region.
“Ugliness of military initiatives in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia that powerful protagonists of the war-against-terror have undertaken is proof that the new century can only feature diplomatic means to settle disputes,” according to the English daily.
It went on to say that Kouchner’s remarks have “stunned the world” and wondered why he and Washington saw nuclear weapons as a threat only if they were in Iran’s -- not Israel’s, or indeed France’s.
Oil-rich Gulf Arab states,voiced concern over potential ecological fallout from Iran’s nuclear activities, and advocated a peaceful settlement of Tehran’s standoff with the West.
Member states of pro-Western Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also pursuing their own nuclear energy technology programme.
The region was the scene of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq, the 1991 Gulf War sparked by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and the 2003 US-led invasion which toppled the dictator.
The Arab News, however, disagreed with Iran’s contention that the new French government was merely executing “the will of the White House.” It concluded by saying that “It is more likely that they both have the same idea about how to ‘pacify´ the Middle East. For this reason, if Kouchner says war is a possibility, we have to take that warning seriously.”