King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia formally called for the formation of a Gulf Union on a backdrop of regional unrest and growing tensions with rival Iran.

"I ask today that we move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity," Abdullah said during his address at the opening session of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council conference in Riyadh.

"You must realise that our security and stability are threatened and we need to live up to our responsibilities," said King Abdullah.

"Our summit opens in the shadow of challenges that require vigilance and a united stance," he added.

The GCC -- comprised of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates -- was formed in 1981 as a security alliance to counter post-revolution Iran.

While Abdullah did not speak directly to the nature such a union might take, the six-member GCC has been openly discussing transforming their alliance into a unified diplomatic and military confederation for months now.

It has also been actively moving to expand its ranks. The GCC opened integration negotiations with Jordan earlier this month, and is engaged in exploratory talks with Morocco.

Last week GCC officials revealed they were making the inclusion of Egypt - the region's most populous and militarily powerful Arab country - a priority.

The GCC nations have technically been at war with Israel since 1948, raising uncomfortable questions about the future of Israel's treaties with Egypt and Jordan should those nations join.

The move also comes on the heels of the GCC flexing its muscles in the Arab League, where it moved to isolate key Iran ally Syria over the bloody crackdown of President Bashar al-Assad that has killed over 5,000 civilians.

In a clear reference to Syria, Abdullah urged his GCC allies to help their "Arab brothers so that the blood stops flowing and to guard against the risks of foreign intervention."

Analysts say isolating Assad also weakens Iran's proxy in Lebanon, the Shi'ite terror organization Hizbullah, which relies on Syria as a land-bridge to Tehran.

Earlier this year Abdullah met with Lebanon's Saudi-educated former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, whose Future Movement is closely allied with the anti-Hizbullah opposition in Beirut.

According to the analysts, the move also makes it more difficult for Iran to maintain its insurgency in Iraq as the United States begins its final withdrawal from the war-torn country.

Iraqi leaders have long complained to U.S. officials that Riyadh and Tehran are respectively backing competing Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies in their country.

If pro-Saudi opposition groups Lebanon and Syria were to come to power they too could be targeted for recruitment into Abdullah's proposed union, as might Iraq.

Earlier this year Saudi Crown Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud said, should Iran obtain nuclear weapons, that Riyadh would seek them as well.

Such a move would place the potentially nuclear armed Arab super-state on all of Israel's borders.