Abu Dhabi // The UAE's new strategy on dealing with Iran over the three occupied islands in the Strait of Hormuz is one of patience, peaceful diplomacy and international law, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
"We are following a long-patience policy," Dr Anwar Gargash said.
Dr Gargash called for Iran to act with maturity, and to be considerate about the relationship between neighbours.
"The UAE today is not that small, injured baby which was born on December 2, 1971. Rather it's a key state with huge potential," he said.
"We will remain neighbours for ever despite our differences," Dr Gargash said in an interview with Dubai TV, which will be broadcast tonight.
Dr Gargash spoke amid growing criticism of this month's controversial visit by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the island of Abu Musa, which Iran invaded and occupied along with the Greater and Lesser Tunbs in 1971.
Iran's occupation of the strategically located islands coincided with the eve of the founding of the UAE.
On the new political strategy of pressing the UAE's sovereignty over the islands through peaceful diplomacy and international law, Dr Gargash said: "We are mulling all possible options before us in this respect."
He said escalating the situation was in no one's interest, and a solution would not be reached by using provocative statements.
"We are fed up with the record of foreign pressure which the Iranians keep parroting," he said.
He said the visit of an Iranian president "to our occupied islands" had provoked a strong reaction from the UAE, and expressed dismay that the visit came at a time when the two nations were already in negotiations over the islands.
"The UAE stands ready to risk its historic and legal facts, and win or lose at the International Court of Justice."
Responding to claims by Iran that it has facts to prove its ownership of the islands, Dr Gargash said: "He who has such facts is supposed to accept international arbitration."
In a gesture of support, the ruler of Ajman has declared that three streets be named after islands.
Abu Musa Street will be in Mushairif, the Greater Tunb in Al Jurf and the Lesser Tunb in Al Humaidiya. Orders have been passed to implement the decision.
In the international arena, the French and Italian governments have joined the criticism of Mr Ahmadinejad's visit.
Bernard Valero, the French foreign ministry spokesman, said that "in the light of the importance of regional stability and security, we regret all initiatives that could create tensions, as was the case during the recent visit to Abu Musa by the Iranian president.
"We note there are two attitudes in this affair. The first, the attitude of Iran, which is making declarations of provocation. There is the other attitude of the UAE, which is proposing a peaceful approach to resolve the issue amicably through the International Court of Justice or direct negotiations."
The Italian foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, praised the UAE's measured response.
Mr Terzi said he valued the "moderate attitude the UAE adopted in its response to this provocation".
Several countries and international groups have also expressed their support for the UAE since Mr Ahmadinejad's visit.
* additional reporting by Wam and Kuna