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Iran sowing 'sedition' in the region, says Saudi Arabia

The Saudi foreign ministry issued a 58-point "fact sheet" against Iran [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2016

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Saudi Arabia on Tuesday accused Iran of sowing "sedition, unrest and chaos," since 1979 as the international community tried to calm tensions between the regional rivals.

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday accused Iran of a nearly four-decade record of "sedition, unrest and chaos," as the international community tried to calm tensions between the regional rivals.

"Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Iran has established a record of spreading sedition, unrest and chaos in the region," the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted an unnamed senior foreign ministry official as saying.

"During the same period, the kingdom has maintained a policy of restraint in spite of having suffered - as have neighbouring countries - the consequences of Iran's continued aggressive policies."

The Saudi accusations come as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Tehran on Tuesday, a day after being in Riyadh, to mediate between the two countries.

Sharif offered to host talks to reconcile the two countries and told reporters that Iran had expressed an interest in improving relations with Saudi Arabia and would appoint a focal person for future talks.

Sharif said he would speak to Saudi Arabia to encourage the appointment of a focal person, and described reconciling the two countries as Pakistan's "prime duty and sacred mission."

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Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a new high this month when Riyadh and a number of its Sunni Arab allies cut diplomatic ties with Tehran.

They acted after protesters burned Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following the kingdom's execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

SPA published a 58-point "fact sheet", prepared by the foreign ministry, "to illustrate Iran's aggressive policies" and to refute "the persistent lies" from Tehran, including an article by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in The New York Times last week.

Zarif said Saudi Arabia had devoted itself to trying to stop Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and blocked attempts at dialogue in the Middle East.

"Some in Riyadh not only continue to impede normalisation but are determined to drag the entire region into confrontation," Zarif wrote, arguing that the conservative kingdom was "driven by fear that its contrived Iranophobia was crumbling".

"Saudi Arabia seems to fear that the removal of the smoke screen of the nuclear issue will expose the real global threat: its active sponsorship of violent extremism."

Over the weekend, a historic international deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in return for a scaling back of its nuclear capabilities.

Six major world powers including China helped broker that agreement. But Riyadh fears it will further embolden Iran, which it accuses of interference in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

China's President Xi Jinping was in Riyadh on Tuesday, ahead of a visit to Iran, after a Chinese diplomat last week urged "calm and restraint" between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, also in Riyadh on Tuesday, was another voice calling for "de-escalation."

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