World Bulletin / News Desk
Gulf Arab countries failed to agree on further integration on Monday after a high-profile summit seen as part of Saudi efforts to counter Iran's growing influence and Shi'ite Muslim discontent in Bahrain.
Gulf politicians had played up the idea that the Riyadh meeting would establish closer union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which sent troops in March last year to help Manama in an initial effort to squash the uprising.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, speaking after the two hour summit, told a news conference that talks on a possible union of six nations had been postponed until the next meeting in Bahrain in December.
"Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have approved the call for a commission to continue studying in order to present final results (to a coming summit)," he said.
"The issue will take time... The aim is for all countries to join, not just two or three. ... I'm hoping that the six countries will unite in the next meeting."
The union calls for economic, political and military coordination and a new decision-making body based in Riyadh, replacing the current GCC Secretariat.
But analysts say the plan faces considerable obstacles among Gulf leaders who have jealously guarded their turf.
Neither Oman nor the UAE was represented by their leaders at the summit, where the other brother rulers, as the Saudi press describes them, were met by the octogenarian Saudi King Abdullah leaning heavily on a stick.
Speaking about Bahrain, the veteran Saudi minister added: "There was no step to have a special relationship between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, although both countries would welcome closer association. We're in full cooperation with all Gulf states to come up with the union."
Majority Shi'ites have been leading an uprising in Bahrain for democratic reforms for over a year, raising Saudi fears of an impact upon Shi'ites in its oil-producing Eastern Province.
The Saudi minister said that Gulf leaders had agreed to sign a deal struck by interior ministers on closer security cooperation and that ministers would work "day and night" in economic, political, security and military committees set up since a summit last December to prepare the ground for union.
The GCC was formed in 1981 by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to counter Iraqi and Iranian influence at the time.
At the summit, Bahrain's monarch headed a large delegation that included royal court minister Khaled bin Ahmed, a leading hardliner within the ruling Al Khalifa family seen as opposing granting concessions to Shi'ites who are leading the protests.
"We look forward today to the establishment of the Gulf Union," said Bahrain's King Hamad in a statement released by Bahrain's state news agency when he arrived in Riyadh.
As delegates prepared to meet, protesters burned tyres in Manama, sending plumes of smoke over the airport. Some 81 people have died in violence during 15 months of unrest, according to activists.
Oman and the UAE were represented by other senior members of their ruling dynasties at the summit. Gulf analysts say some GCC members are averse to integration, fearing a loss of sovereignty.
Sunni hardliners in Bahrain however have pushed the idea of a confederation with Saudi Arabia as a way to pull the carpet from under the feet of the Shi'ite opposition.
The ruling Al Saud family enjoys close personal ties with Bahrain's Al Khalifa clan and Saudi citizens regularly travel across the 25 km causeway to Bahrain on weekends.
As for Iran, Gulf Arabs accuse it of fomenting recent unrest in Bahrain - a charge Iran and protesters deny. Tehran, which has lauded the Bahrain uprising as an "Islamic awakening", reacted to the union proposals with alarm.
"Saudi Arabia and the ruler of Bahrain know that without doubt these foolish measures will make the Bahraini people more united against the occupiers," a statement by 190 members of Iran's parliament said on Monday.
Saud al-Faisal chided Iran for objecting. "The threats from Iran are not acceptable," he said. "Even if we reach the path of union, Iran should not interfere."
A bill desginating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization has been submitted to three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Ozdil Nami said a lack of progress in negotiations was 'unacceptable' as talks between the island's leaders become marred by anger and argument.
"Hamas, relying on armed resistance, has emerged the victor in Gaza," Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah group, said in a speech in Beirut.
Israel's military said it would hold fire starting at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) but would continue searching for tunnels used by Palestinian fighters.
The U.N. chief also called for an extendable humanitarian 12-hour pause to mark the beginning of the seven-day ceasefire, to which both sides later responded positively.
Both Moscow and Kiev have accused the other of shooting across the border, and Ukraine says missiles shot from Russia may have downed two of its fighter jets this week
"The federal government has requisitioned the services of the Pakistan army in aid of civil power in Islamabad," the prime minister's office said
Clashes were also reported in Jerusalem after Israeli authorities barred Muslims from performing Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Police said the bomb was left in a vehicle about 50 metres from a hotel in the town of Betong, which is popular with tourists from nearby Malaysia
At least 3 hae been confirmed dead, 10 rescued and 8 missing after an overloaded vessel carrying illegal Indonesian workers capsized.
Israeli air force dropped about 3,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip in the first 15 days of the conflict, including 120 tons in the border town of Shejaia alone
Banned substances include gasoline and firecrackers, but also drinking water, cooking oil and yogurt.
Abbott said that Russian-backed rebels who control the area were tampering with evidence on "an industrial scale" and argued that outside police or possibly military forces were needed to ensure that did not continue.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said leaders should show flexibility so that political deadlocks could be broken and Iraq could confront militants.
State media said "millions" of people joined the rallies nationwide, which were called to mark Iran's annual day of solidarity with Palestinians.
At least three women and a three-year-old child were among those killed.