Kuwait City: Arab states in the Gulf plan to launch a joint naval force, a top Kuwaiti defence official said on Wednesday, in a bid to protect waters shared with neighbouring Iran.
The new force is expected to be formed in the "coming months", Major General Ahmad Yussef al-Mulla was quoted as saying by the official KUNA news agency.
The Gulf Cooperation Council states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- formed the Peninsula Shield force in 1982 as a 5,000-strong army.
Mulla said military officials from the six nations were still working out details for the naval force, which will be organised in a similar way to the joint ground forces.
The size of the force will depend on the "level of external threats for Gulf marine security," he said.
The six states share thousands of kilometres of shoreline along the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea -- bodies of water also patrolled by Iran`s powerful navy.
Warships from the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain are present in the region.
Three years ago, Peninsula Shield troops were deployed in Sunni-ruled Bahrain to help the kingdom`s security forces put down protests led by the Shiite majority.
Together, the six states sit on 40 precent of global crude reserves and a quarter of the world`s natural gas. They have a population of 50 million, about half of them foreigners.