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Thursday, December 27, 2012
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Gulf council to unify militaries

The Gulf Cooperation Council will fold the military of its member states under a single command structure, Bahrain's foreign minister announced Tuesday, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

The announcement came at the end of a GCC summit at a time of heightened tensions with Iran.

Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Khalifa told reporters in the capital city of Manama that the council's command would bring together "the Peninsula Shield Forces as well as the air and naval forces" of member states in the oil-rich region, BNA reported.

"It is an entity that will bring all efforts together under one umbrella," he said.

Three representatives of each of the six GCC member states have been working on a team since last year to map out the command structure, which Al-Kalifa said was in a preliminary stage.

The GCC, which comprises Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, encourages cooperation among members in a number of areas, including economy and security.

Al-Khalifa said Bahrain has had neighborly relations with Iran, but added that "certain differences" were noted in the GCC Summit's concluding communique.

That communique "underscored Iran's right to peaceful use of nuclear power while stressing the need for safe nuclear plants which could pose a danger even in time of peace," BNA said.

Iran insists that its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes; a number of other countries, including the United States, have said they suspect Tehran seeks to build nuclear weapons.

Al-Khalifa added, "the GCC countries are keen to have sound relations with Iran."

The underlying concern is that Iran could meddle in Bahrain's internal affairs. Iran is an overwhelmingly Shiite state; Bahrain has a Shiite majority population, but its rulers are Sunni.

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