Saudi top diplomat criticizes Iran over conflicts
Oct. 13, 2014
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's foreign minister on Monday lashed out at regional rival Iran, accusing the Shiite powerhouse of having forces inside Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and insisting that Iran is "part of the problem" in trying to defuse the myriad Mideast crises.
Saud al-Faisal said that Tehran should pull its troops — which he called "occupying forces" — from the three Mideast nations stricken by conflicts and violence if it wants to be part of the solution.
Al-Faisal did not elaborate on his allegations.
Iran insists it has no forces on the ground in any of the three countries, but has sent advisers to help Syrian President Bashar Assad keep his hold on power and to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to battle the Islamic State group.
Iran is Syria's strongest ally in the Middle East, and has provided Assad's government with military and political backing for years. Iran also is believed to be sending weapons and money to Syria.
Saudi Arabia has joined the U.S.-led coalition in air strikes against Islamic State fighters who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria, saying it seeks to both support the Syrian opposition battling Assad and crush the extremist fighters.
"In many of these conflicts, Iran is part of the problem and not part of the solution," al-Faisal said during a press conference in the Saudi city of Jiddah with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"If Iran wants to contribute to solving the problems in Syria, it should withdraw its troops from Syria," he said, adding the same applies to Yemen and Iraq.
Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have also joined in airstrikes against the extremist group, while Qatar is providing logistical support.
Also Monday, Qatar's emir arrived to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with King Abdullah. It is Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani's second visit to the kingdom in the past three months. The two were to discuss regional issues related to the fight against the Islamic State group, Saudi media said.
And in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait's ruler Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah on Monday wrapped up his visit during which he met the federation's top leaders, including Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The high-level meetings came as the energy-rich Gulf Arab nations strive to put aside differences in an effort to present a unified front against both Assad's forces and the Islamic State fighters.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew ambassadors from Qatar in March to protest its support for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group in the region. They have yet to reinstate them.
Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.