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Iran's President Calls for Security Pact with Gulf Arab States

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for economic and security cooperation deals between the states bordering the Persian Gulf. He was addressing the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Qatar. It is the first time an Iranian leader has ever attended the GCC summit. VOA Correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

Mr. Ahmadinejad told the leaders of the six Persian Gulf states meeting in Doha that any security problem affecting one of their nations will hurt all of the others.

He urged the establishment of economic and security pacts between the Gulf states.

Speaking in Persian through an Arabic translator, he said the security of all the Gulf countries is inextricably linked.

Iran has previously called for Gulf security pacts, but the Gulf Arab states have generally ignored or rejected those appeals. Iran has had a rocky relationship with some of the Gulf Arab nations, including several territorial disputes, and several of the GCC leaders have expressed their discomfort with Iran's nuclear program. But in his remarks at the GCC summit, Mr. Ahmadinejad was clearly reaching out to them.

He said Iran is eager to cooperate closely with its neighbors. He called for peace and security "without foreign interference."

The GCC states have close ties with the United States, which has a cool relationship with Iran. Several of them, including Qatar and Bahrain, host U.S. military bases. But several of the GCC members also have long-standing cultural and economic ties with Iran. They have felt caught in the middle of the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

Officials said this was the first time that an Iranian leader had been invited to a GCC summit in the organization's 27-year history.

The Gulf Cooperation Council is a six-nation grouping of Arab states whose aim is to promote economic cooperation between members and, through collective security, guard against any threat from neighboring states.

Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke to the summit just after its host, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani,

Sheikh Hamad told the assembled leaders they were meeting amid what he called "a very dangerous atmosphere" that threatens the region and the world.

The emir listed a series of crises that he said are increasing pressure on the region, threatening its stability. The standoff over the Iranian nuclear program was first on his list, followed by the buildup of military forces in the Gulf.

The Gulf leaders were meeting on the same day that the U.S. intelligence agencies revised their assessment of Iran's nuclear weapons program. The agencies concluded that Iran stopped trying to build nuclear weapons in 2003, although they believe Iran is likely still keeping its options open. The agencies said Iran has been more responsive to sanctions and other forms of international pressure than previously thought. The new intelligence report is seen as a significant shift away from earlier positions, when the U.S. intelligence agencies had taken a harder line on Iran.