Gulf Leaders Open GCC Summit in Bahrain
The 21st summit of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council opened in Manama Saturday with a call by Bahrain's emir for increased cooperation in the region's economy and defense, reported AFP.
"We hope that an agreement opening the way for the creation of a single currency for Gulf countries will be signed during the summit," Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa said.
Sheikh Hamad called on Gulf countries to "continue to take the economic rapprochement on both official and popular levels, notably by facilitating economic activities for citizens."
The Bahraini emir also called for the "development of cooperation in defense issues, which is a guarantee for the security and stability of GCC countries and their peoples."
"That could be realized through the sealing of a common defense agreement," he said, according to the agency.
The two-day summit of the Gulf Arab monarchies -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- is expected to be dominated by Iraq, Emirati claims to three islands held by Iran and the Palestinian issue, said AFP.
Bahrain's Information Minister was quoted by the Gulf News daily as saying that leaders want to launch their customs union two years ahead of schedule to 2003.
He also said in a press conference Friday that the issue of UAE's three islands occupied by Iran will be one of the main points in the agenda.
"Iran has to talk to the UAE if it is willing to have better relations with the GCC countries," he added.
On the eve of the summit the foreign ministers met Friday to put their final touches on the agenda for today's summit, said the daily.
Meanwhile, Bahrain Foreign Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak said the agenda included several recommendations dealing with economic, cultural, scientific, political and security cooperation besides a host of issues aimed at pushing forward the GCC process and strengthening relations among the GCC member states, according to the paper.
According to the paper, the leaders are expected to approve bringing the implementation of the unified tariff forward to the year 2003 instead of 2005.
Other important issues are the GCC relations with Iraq and the situation in occupied Palestinian territories.
The GCC was formed in 1981 and, comprises six countries: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE -- Albawaba.com
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