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Iraq will mediate in Saudi-Iran crisis, says FM

Ibrahim al-Jaafari (C) met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif

Date of publication: 6 January, 2016

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Iraq will mediate to ease the deepening tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, its Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said on Wednesday as he headed to Tehran.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is holding talks in Tehran on Wednesday with the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran in focus as international concern mounts.

Jaafari met with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and was scheduled to meet President Hassan Rouhani later.

Zarif and Jaafari discussed "regional and international issues" and held a joint press conference.

The ISNA news agency reported that Jaafari was making efforts to "advance dialogue and have a diplomatic role in preventing efforts to create discord", so that the region could "pass its current challenge".

At the joint press conference, Zarif said Saudi Arabia "must stop" its prolonged attempts to frustrate Iran's efforts to reduce tensions in the Middle East and beyond.

"For the past two-and-a-half years, Saudi Arabia has opposed Iran's diplomacy," the Iranian minister said.

"Saudi Arabia has moved against our efforts and they opposed the nuclear agreement, in line with the Zionist regime," Zarif said, referring to Israel, and Iran's deal last year with world powers over its atomic programme.

"This trend of creating tension must stop. We have never sought to create tension. We have always adopted a policy of interaction and dialogue," Zarif said, adding that "all Iranian officials condemn it".

The visit came after the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran widened on Tuesday when Kuwait recalled its ambassador to Tehran and Bahrain severed air links with the Islamic republic.

Joining Riyadh and its Sunni Arab allies in taking diplomatic action, Kuwait said it was withdrawing its envoy following an arson attack at the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

The violence came after Saudi Arabia's execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric accused of fomenting sedition in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Iran condemned the killing again on Tuesday, with Rouhani accusing Riyadh of seeking to "cover its crime" by severing ties.

The United States and other Western powers have called for calm amid fears the dispute could raise sectarian tensions across the Middle East and derail efforts to resolve bloody conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

There were protests in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Pakistan after Nimr's execution.

Iraq's top Shia authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said the execution was an unjustified act of aggression.

Saudi Arabia only recently re-opened its embassy in Baghdad and Nimr's execution sparked calls among protesters for it to be closed and the ambassador expelled.

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