Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a joint press conference with the visiting French President, Nicolas Sarkozy stated that it would be a catastrophe if a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear row was not found. Sarkozy's two-day visit to Syria was the first by a Western head of state in five years. Assad had visited Paris in July.
Sarkozy, in an interview to a newspaper, asserted that Syria could provide valuable inputs to solve Middle East concerns. The French President also offered his support for direct peace talks between Israel and Lebanon, whenever they could take place. Israeli officials on their part have warned that Europe should be ‘very careful in its relationship with Syria1.
Tehran on its part dismissed a warning by Mr. Sarkozy that the Islamic Republic was taking a dangerous gamble over its nuclear programme, due to the possibility of an Israeli attack. Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham accused Israel of threatening global peace but reiterated Tehran's publicly stated view that Tel Aviv was not in a position to attack Iran2.
The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meanwhile urged Iran to remove the offices it had installed on the disputed island of Abu Musa and backed the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) claim to the territories. Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, located near key shipping lanes in the Gulf, are controlled by the non-Arab Iran but have been claimed by the UAE with broad Arab support. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi charged that the GCC statement amounted to interference in Iran's internal affairs and called on Gulf countries to be ‘realistic3.’
Reports noted that Iran's armed forces would begin three days of war games involving anti-aircraft defence systems starting from September 8. The aim of the exercises was to maintain and upgrade the combat readiness of relevant units as well as to test new weapons and defence plans. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman had in the previous week denied reports, based on comments from Israeli defence sources, that Iran had bought Russia's advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems4.