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Gulf Arab states face obstacles to unity push

world Updated: May 12, 2012 01:55 IST

Gulf Arab leaders meeting on Monday will discuss closer union between their six states because of what they see as growing threats from Iran and al Qaeda after the Arab uprisings, but significant political obstacles loom.

Some members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, worry that convergence might spell dominance by the group’s largest member, Saudi Arabia.

They also view dimly reports that Saudi Arabia will merge initially with Bahrain, where majority Shi'ite Muslims have rebelled against a monarchy that like the other GCC dynasties is Sunni Muslim and is allied with the United States against Iran.

“Qatar sees this all as Saudi’s way of undermining the Gulf states’ bilateral relations and forcing its own agenda,” said a the Qatari government source.

Smaller Gulf Arab states fear losing economic and political influence to Saudi Arabia, which has a population five times greater than the next largest member, Oman, and dominates the region’s all-important oil and gas sector. Riyadh’s overarching concern is its regional tussle for influence with Iran.