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Saudi Arabia says firm Arab stand needed to deter Iran

Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani will attend the emergency summit

Earlier on Thursday, Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf urged Muslim nations to confront with "all means of force and firmness" an alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates this month and the Saudi oil pipeline attack.

Morocco did not send its king amid a cooling of ties with Saudi Arabia, while Qatar sent its prime minister rather than its ruling emir amid a diplomatic standoff with Arab neighbors.

King Salman called on the worldwide community to thwart Iran's behaviors and for "using all means to stop the Iranian regime from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, harboring global and regional terrorist entities and threatening worldwide waterways".

"Iran should respect the sovereignty of Arab states and stop interfering in the affairs of countries, which is threatening security and stability in the region", the leaders said in a statement read by Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

"We meet in Mecca to build the future of our peoples, to achieve security and stability for our Arab and Islamic countries, and to resolutely confront aggressive threats and subversive activities", King Salman said in a tweet shortly before the start of the meeting.

The third and final summit to be held on Friday is likely to focus on Palestinian statehood and independence.

Tensions have been rife since the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, re-imposed sanctions on Tehran and boosted its military presence in the Gulf.

In a comminique issued in the early hours of Friday, the Gulf Co-operation Council described the attacks on the commercial vessels, including an Emirati oil tanker, as "a unsafe development" that threatens the security and safety of marine navigation in the strategic region and reflects negatively on the regional and worldwide peace and security as well as on world oil markets.

Tensions in the region spiked after the four ships were damaged in a mysterious sabotage attack off the coast of the emirate of Fujairah on May 12.

Bolton, speaking in London, said it would be a big mistake if Iran or its surrogates attacked United States interests. Tehran rejected the accusation.

United States experts are part of a five-nation team investigating the ship attacks.

The attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this month were caused by "naval mines nearly certainly from Iran", U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Wednesday from the UAE as the tension between the U.S. and Iran continued to escalate.

Last week the Pentagon announced the deployment of 900 additional troops to the region and extended the stay of 600 other service members, after speeding up deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and sending bombers and additional Patriot missiles.

"We're not looking for regime change - I just want to make that clear", Mr. Trump said.

Through the summits, Saudi Arabia has sought to project a unified Arab front against Tehran in the face of bitter differences with neighbouring Qatar.

The Qatari "leadership made a decision to (send). the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani to the three summits in Mecca", foreign ministry spokeswoman Lolwah al-Khater said, referring to the gatherings of Gulf, Arab and Islamic leaders. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman very quickly shook the Qatari royal's hand, but they did not appear to exchange words.

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia along with the UAE and its allies have enforced a boycott of Qatar including bans on shipping, trade, direct flights, overflight and land crossings.

The alliance accuses Doha of supporting Islamist movements and backing Iran - claims Qatar rejects.