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The Latest: Iran’s president says stay focused on Palestine

May 31, 2019
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Saudi King Salman chairs an emergency summit of Gulf Arab leaders in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, May 30, 2019. King Salman opened an emergency summit of Gulf Arab leaders in the holy city of Mecca on Thursday with a call for the international community to use all means to confront Iran, but he also said the kingdom extends its hand for peace. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Latest on developments related to tensions in the Persian Gulf (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has sent a message to a summit of Muslim countries saying they need to remain focused on the Palestinian issue.

In a letter published on the presidential website Friday, Rouhani said Muslim leaders should not let the occupation of Palestine be “marginalized” in the face of the Trump administration’s forthcoming peace plan. Glimpses of the still undisclosed plan suggest it sidelines or ignores the longstanding goal of Palestinian independence.

Rouhani, while complaining about not being invited to the summit, expressed his country’s readiness to accompany and collaborate with all Muslim leaders to confront the so-called “Deal of the Century.”

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, without naming any country, also condemned some Arab leaders for siding with Israel. The Deal of the Century is likely to include large-scale investment and infrastructure work in the Palestinian territories, much of it funded by wealthy Arab countries. Zarif’s remarks were carried by a Telegram channel affiliated with Iran’s state TV.

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12:15 p.m.

Iran’s foreign ministry has rejected accusations it says were made at an ongoing summit of Muslim countries, after regional rival Saudi Arabia said Iran’s behavior threatens regional stability and security.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency cited a foreign ministry spokesman as saying Friday that the accusations were part of an ongoing program against Iran being pursued by the United States and Israel.

During a meeting Thursday of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jiddah ahead of a series of summits in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Assaf, said Muslim nations must confront recent attacks blamed on Iran with “all means of force and firmness.”

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3:20 a.m.

Iraq’s President Barham Salih told Arab leaders gathered in Saudi Arabia that the security and stability of Iran is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states.

Salih described Iran as a Muslim country and neighbor to Iraq.

“We do not hope that its security is targeted because we share 1,400 kilometers of border and a number of relations,” he said, referring to Iran. “Honestly, the security and stability of a neighboring Islamic country is in the interest of Muslim and Arab states.”

While he said Iraq condemns a recent attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on a Saudi oil pipeline, he stressed that the region needs stability based on respect of sovereignty and the rejection of violence.

Iraq has offered to mediate between the United States and Iran amid escalating tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.

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2:50 a.m.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told Arab heads of state gathered at an emergency summit in Mecca that the security of Arab Gulf states is intrinsically linked to the national security of Egypt.

El-Sissi’s comments come amid mounting tensions between Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s rival, Iran. Saudi King Salman convened the Arab League summit in Mecca as a show of unity against Iran.

In remarks at the summit on Thursday, el-Sissi said a recent attack on a Saudi oil pipeline and the alleged sabotage of oil vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates represent “explicit acts of terrorism,” adding that all means should be used to deter the perpetrators of these acts.

He said the 22-nation Arab League meeting in Mecca sends a message of solidarity with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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2:10 a.m.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made an appeal to Arab leaders gathered in Mecca to reject a White House plan for the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

Speaking before King Salman and other Arab leaders from the 22-nation Arab League, Abbas reiterated that the Palestinian leadership is boycotting a meeting next month in Bahrain being organized by the White House.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner seeks to rally Arab Gulf states to back economic initiatives for Palestinians at the Bahrain meeting, but Palestinian officials have described the plan as economic blackmail. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are participating in the conference.

Abbas said that any peace plan must include a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.

He noted that this has been the steadfast position of Arab states, including as recently as last year at an Arab League summit held in Saudi Arabia, which King Salman renamed the Jerusalem Summit.

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11:50 p.m.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman opened a summit of Gulf Arab leaders in the holy city of Mecca with a call on the international community to confront Iran to stop its regional interference and threatening policies.

Speaking at a gathering of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the Saudi monarch noted the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack on a key Saudi pipeline earlier this month as just the latest examples of what he described as acts that show “the Iranian regime’s behavior and it’s threat to regional security are a blatant challenge to international norms.”

Attending Thursday night’s summit were the leaders of Kuwait and Bahrain, as well as senior officials from the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

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5:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump says that if Iran wants to talk, he’s available.

Trump says that Iran’s economy is suffering from U.S. sanctions and that the country is becoming a “weakened nation.”

As tensions between Washington and Tehran escalate, Trump claims Iran wants to make a deal.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says, however, that negotiating with the U.S. would bring nothing but harm.

He said Wednesday that his country will not negotiate on issues related to its military capabilities. He insists that Iran isn’t looking to acquire nuclear weapons — not because of sanctions or the United States, but because they are forbidden under Islamic Sharia law.

At the White House on Thursday, Trump told reporters: “If they want to talk, I’m available.”

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7:20 a.m.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says Muslim nations must confront recent attacks blamed on Iran with “all means of force and firmness.”

Ibrahim al-Assaf made the comments early Thursday at a meeting of foreign ministers of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jiddah ahead of a series of summits in the kingdom.

Al-Assaf said the alleged sabotage of boats off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels required the region to “make more efforts to counter the terrorist acts of extremist and terrorist groups.”

Iran has denied being involved in the attacks, which come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the U.S.

Al-Assaf added: “We should confront it with all means of force and firmness.”

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