Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Iran-Saudi Conference 'Postponed'

BBC News:
Talks between Iranian and Saudi Arabian officials have reportedly been postponed, days after the Saudis voiced concern about Iran's influence in Iraq. Saudi officials said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has abandoned his plans to visit Riyadh.

Mr Mottaki has visited Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman as part of a tour of the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia recently voiced disquiet over the ascendancy of Shias and the prospect of sectarian war in Iraq, which it borders, along with Iran. READ MORE

Iraq's interior minister Bayan Jabr hit back at the Saudi complaints on Monday, saying he did not wish to be lectured by "some Bedouin riding a camel".

Mr Jabr said Sunni Arab countries should support the newly empowered Shias in Iraq rather than pushing them into the arms of Iran.

Fresh attack

Saudi officials have not said why the Iranian envoy's visit was postponed, nor how long it has been postponed for.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman had earlier said the two sides would discuss Iraq, the Palestinian issue and Tehran's quest for peaceful nuclear technology.

Iran's foreign ministry has rejected as baseless and unrealistic allegations that Iranians are infiltrating Iraq.

Iran's position is that it wants foreign occupation of Iraq to end but it argues a stable Iraq is in its best interests.

At the same time Iran's closest allies are now in power in Baghdad - top Iraqi Shia politicians many of whom spent years in exile in Iran - and that makes other countries in the region nervous, says the BBC's Frances Harrison in Tehran.

On Tuesday, Mr Jabr - a Shia - directed a fresh attack on Saudi Arabia's Sunni rulers in an interview with the Arabic television network al-Jazeera.

"[They should] create a democratic system and give freedoms, and not grant rights in just dribs and drabs, saying that maybe a woman can drive a car but she can only work within limits in the workplace," Mr Jabr said.

"We call for democracy and freedom in all the Arab nation," he added.