Reuters: Iran and Saudi Arabia agree that Muslim nations should be alert to efforts by enemies to divide their ranks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said after his first official trip to the kingdom, Iranian media reported on Sunday. TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran and Saudi Arabia agree that Muslim nations should be alert to efforts by enemies to divide their ranks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said after his first official trip to the kingdom, Iranian media reported on Sunday.
Ahmadinejad met Saudi King Abdullah on Saturday after which Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi al-Faisal said Sunni Muslim heavyweight Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shi’ite Iran agreed to fight the spread of sectarian strife.
A Saudi official had said the kingdom would seek Iran’s help to prevent tensions in Iraq erupting into full-blown civil war.
“Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are aware of the enemies’ conspiracies, and while condemning these conspiracies, we invite all Muslims to be aware of the enemies’ plans with wisdom,” Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran’s ISNA news agency as saying.
Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are among the most influential nations of their respective branches of Islam. U.S.-allied Arab governments fear Iran is gaining influence in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq.
“About the Palestinian and Iraqi issues, we had discussions in detail. In many cases, we had a common point of view. Both countries oppose the enemies’ control over the Islamic region.”
While Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, Iran is a fierce opponent of Western influence in the region. It is embroiled in a row over its nuclear plans that Washington says are aimed at building atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
Asked if talks covered the nuclear issue and the presence of U.S. forces in the Gulf, an issue regularly targeted for criticism by Tehran, Ahmadinejad replied:
“We held discussions in all fields. Some issues were examined such as the enemy controlling the region by different ways and causing division. Some common plans have been carried out to protect the rights of the Islamic nations.”
Iranian officials, including Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been warning Muslims about what they say are efforts by the United States and its allies to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Killings by Sunni and Shi’ite death squads in Iraq and the political crisis in Lebanon dividing Sunni and Shi’ite parties have led to fears of sectarian conflict in the Middle East.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a news conference on Sunday that the Islamic Republic was ready to “do whatever is necessary to help establishing peace and security in Iraq”.
He said Iran was still considering whether to attend a meeting of Iraq’s neighbours in Baghdad in March and April. The gatherings are due to be attended by U.S. and British officials.
“Direct talks (with U.S. officials) are not on our agenda,” the spokesman said.
Ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia have often been strained but Ahmadinejad said ties were growing.
“We have really good expanded and developing relations with Saudi Arabia. The trip was completely necessary … so that we get familiar with each others’ opinions through discussions about the current changes in the region and Islamic world,” the president said.