TEHRAN: Iran's foreign ministry denied on Wednesday that it had threatened to cut diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, as state media outlets reported the previous day.
The ministry's spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, had been quoted as saying Tehran may cut diplomatic ties with the UAE because of a festering dispute over three Gulf islands claimed by both sides.
In a statement reported Wednesday, the ministry said it "denies the comments attributed to the spokesman by some local media regarding the Emirates," accusing those media of "distorting" what was said.
Mehmanparast's comments were reported by parliamentary news website icana.ir and official news agency IRNA, saying diplomatic ties could be cut should the UAE continue to claim the islands currently under Iran's control.
"If making such anti-Iranian claims reaches a level that national interests lie in reducing or severing political ties... (such a move) will be implemented," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.
He warned the UAE could "suffer the fate of Britain" -- alluding to Iran's decision last year to downgrade diplomatic relations to Britain in anger over heightened Western sanctions.
Britain eventually cut direct diplomatic ties with Iran in December 2011 after pro-government demonstrators in Tehran stormed the British embassy.
Mehmanparast's alleged comments echoed Tehran's line that the UAE stance has no "rational, logical, historical, or legal basis."
Iran and the UAE are at loggerheads over the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, which lie in the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.
Iran took control of them in 1971 when colonial-era Britain withdrew from that part of the Gulf.
The Islamic republic says the islands are a historic part of its territory, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in April visited them to reassert that position.
However, the UAE claims ownership in line with an agreement signed with Britain, and has garnered support from other Gulf Arab states and its ally the United States.