Radical Iranian Daily Critical Of Saudi Envoy’s Visit
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ A senior Saudi envoy’s visit to Iran indicates Tehran and Riyadh may be close to re-establishing ties cut when hundreds of Iranian pilgrims were slain in Mecca in 1988, Tehran sources said Monday.
The Saudi deputy foreign minister’s arrival Friday, in the first Saudi official visit since ties were severed, caps weeks of efforts by Riyadh to narrow the rift with Iran, the sources said.
The Saudis cut their ties with Iran in the closing stages of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, in which they bankrolled Baghdad’s war effort.
Now they are in a confrontation with Baghdad over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The invasion Aug. 2 has accelerated efforts by both Saudi and Iranian moderates to end the rift.
Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani wants to end his country’s isolation by improving ties the West and his Arab neighbors. His hard-line opponents oppose that but lately have been unable to change Rafsanjani’s policies.
Riyadh, seeking to cement the coalition against Iraq, has in recent weeks been wooing Iran, urging it to tone down its anti-Saudi rhetoric.
Last month, Iran resumed ties with Britain after an 18-month break, despite objections by the anti-Western hardliners.
Iran’s state radio and television, run by Rafsanjani’s brother, Mohammed Hashemi, have given the visit of the Saudi envoy, Abdul-Rahman Mansuri, little coverage.
But the Farsi-language Jomhuri Islami daily, close to the hard-line opposition, asked Monday: ″What is Saudi Arabia’s purpose in its recent move and what is it after?″
Jomhuri Islami’s commentary was carried by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency and was monitored in Nicosia.
The daily stressed Riyadh would have to meet two conditions before a resumption of diplomatic relations - remove the U.S.-dominated multinational force and allow Iranian pilgrims to stage political rallies at Moslem shrines in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis requested the multinational force to defend the kingdom after Iraq invaded Kuwait. The presence of the Western forces in Saudi Arabia, the paper said, ″is similar to the military occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, and is even worse.″
The daily also demanded that Iranian Moslems on the annual pilgrimage to the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest shrines, be allowed to stage political demonstrations.
The Iranians have insisted that staging protests demonstrating ″antipathy towards pagans,″ is a cornerstone of the hajj, or pilgrimage. The Saudis, who consider the pilgrimage a purely religious rite, have banned political demonstrations.
Riyadh’s decision to sever ties with Tehran came after more than 400 pilgrims, most of them Iranians, were killed in a clash in 1988 with Saudi security forces.
The Saudis say the trouble was instigated by the Iranians, and cut off ties with Tehran, citing terrorism and subversion.
Tehran accused the Saudis of deliberately killing Iranian pilgrims.