A top official of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council says the U.S. naval presence in the region has played "a major role" in the "containment" of Iran and that it is time for the United States to return to a "low profile" there.

"I believe the American presence in the gulf contributed to the containment of tension and a reduction of {Iranian} adventurism," said Abdullah Bishara, secretary general of the six-nation council, in an interview here Monday.

Bishara, on a self-described "goodwill mission," said the Arab gulf states believe the United States has shown its resolve in the gulf and that this had been "very important" for them.

The council's members, which include Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, initially had doubts about the staying power of the United States when it began the military escort last summer of 11 Kuwaiti tankers put under the American flag. Two Arab states in the lower gulf, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, were particularly apprehensive that an enlarged American military presence would lead to a serious clash with Iran and drag them into a confrontation as well.

Bishara made it clear those doubts have been dispelled.

Bishara said, however, he believes it better for the United States not to expand its escort mission to include other ships, as some American tanker owners whose ships sail under other than the U.S. flag are seeking, in order to avoid "complicating matters politically and militarily."

"I would say it should be low profile," he added.

"It's better to keep it in the present context and within the present size. It's the time to increase the international pressure {on Iran}, it's not the time to increase tension, on the contrary," Bishara said.

He was referring to a U.N. Security Council resolution that would impose an arms embargo on Iran for its refusal to accept a cease-fire and negotiated settlement of its war with Iraq.

Saying the gulf states fear a military "miscalculation" by one party or another than might touch off a flare-up, Bishara said he believes the war has now reached "a consolidated stalemate" on land and sea and predicted that Iranian attacks on international shipping will slowly diminish.