Bush and his advisers are on a tour of Arab allies in the Gulf [Reuters]

George Bush, the US president, has described Iran as the "leading state sponsor of world terror" that must be confronted "before its too late".

Speaking in Abu Dhabi during a week-long tour of the Middle East, the US president accused Tehran of undermining peace in Lebanon, sending arms to the Taliban, defying the UN and destabilising the entire Middle East.

"Iran is today the world's leading state sponsor of terror. It sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world while its own people face repression and economic hardship at home," Bush said on Sunday during a speech on the third stop of his tour of Arab allies in the Gulf.

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"Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere, so the United States is strengthening our long-standing security commitments with our friends in the Gulf and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late."

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Abu Dhabi, said that there had been no reaction fro the UAE government on Bush's comments and that any discussion on Iran was likely to take place in private.

He said that Gulf countries' policies with Iran had so far been one of dialogue rather than confrontation.

Bush tried to appeal directly to Iranians saying they had a  right to live under a government "that listens to your wishes".

Bush's attack on Iran was accompanied by praise of "democratisation efforts" in the Gulf and he had begun his speech by calling on Palestinians to reject "extremists".

'Nothing new'

Although he did not mention Hamas by name, observers regarded his remarks referred to the the group currently in control of the Gaza Strip.

"This new era is being built with the understanding that power is a trust that must be exercised with the consent of the governed," Bush said during what was the keynote speech of his four-day tour of the Middle east in the opulent Emirates Palace hotel.

Tehran says Bush's trip is aimed at turning
countries in the region against Tehran [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia recently invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, to attend the Hajj while the biggest trade partner of Iran is the UAE.

Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University, said while it was unfortunate to hear Bush’s comments there was "nothing new" in his speech.

"He is not really saying anything different," he told Al Jazeera.

"His visit is aimed at swaying Arab nations away from Iran and creating fear in the region. He is not saying anything new."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies