"We need a common security authority," said Bahrain's Interior Minister Rashid Abd Allah Ahmad Al Khalifa, on Saturday during a meeting in Manama, adding that a joint rapid reaction and "deterrent" force was also required.

  

"The rise in criminality and the expansion of bloody violence and armed clashes represent serious security challenges," he said.

 

"We must combine our efforts in the face of the violent acts which strike the countries of the GCC."

  

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Abd al-Rahman al-Attiya highlighted the need to establish a "more effective security system to protect the region" which could only be achieved with "transparency and cooperation".

  

He said before the conference that so far only Saudi Arabia and the UAE had signed an agreement that would promote greater coordination and information-sharing between the region's security bodies.

 

Security expense

  

The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

  

Saudi Arabia, which has been the scene of several deadly bombings and attacks on Westerners over the past two years, continues to battle alleged members of the al-Qaida network.

  

A bomber in Qatar killed one Briton and wounded 12 in March, while clashes in Kuwait between security forces and rebels left three people dead in January.

  

GCC countries, many of them staunch US allies in its "war on terror", spent $37 billion in 2004 on security and defence with a focus on surveillance and counter-terrorism, according to Jane's Sentinel Security Assessments.