Saudi Arabia urges Iran: respect diplomatic channels

RIYADH, (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia yesterday urged  Iran to act through diplomatic channels in supporting Arab  causes, as tensions grow between the two Islamic powerhouses.

Non-Arab, Shi’ite Iran’s close ties with Lebanese guerrilla  group Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist factions such as Hamas  have often been at the heart of tensions between U.S.-allied  Arab states and Tehran.

“While we appreciate the Iranian support for Arab causes, we  think that it must come through the rightful Arab (entities),”  Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news  conference, after a brief visit by his Iranian counterpart  Manouchehr Mottaki who held talks with King Abdullah.

Iran’s support for Arab causes “must be in harmony with the  goals and stances” of Arab governments and back their positions  without being “a substitute for them”, Prince Saud said.

“Each of us has to deploy the necessary effort to ensure the  stability and steadiness of relations on the basis of fruitful  cooperation and mutual respect,” he added.

Iran has challenged Western influence in the region since  its 1979 Islamic revolution.
Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as leader of mainstream  Sunni Islam, fears the United States and Iran will come to an  historic agreement recognising Iran as the regional power in the  Gulf, creating a possible threat to Al Saud family rule.

Iran is involved in a stand-off with Western nations which  accuse it of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its  nuclear programme is only for power generation.

U.S. President Barack Obama has talked of engaging Iran in  direct talks on its nuclear work and other issues, in a break  from the policy of his predecessor George W. Bush.

Riyadh and fellow predominantly-Sunni Arab conservatives who  maintain close ties with the United States are alarmed at Iran’s  influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, through backing for  political groups, and they accuse Syria of facilitating this.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia brought together on Wednesday  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Egyptian President Hosni  Mubarak and Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to  close ranks ahead of an Arab summit later this month in Qatar.

Prince Saud said of the gathering: “I can described the  Riyadh meeting as an ice-melting meeting.
“Steps towards (Arab-Syrian) reconciliation have not yet  been achieved for us to give a statement about the issue.”

The schism in the Arab world over Iran and Western influence  in the region came to the surface in January over Israel’s  offensive in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

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