Rafsanjani plans to visit Saudi Arabia

Tehran, Nov 27, IRNA – Chairman of Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that he will visit Saudi Arabia to reassure them [the Saudis] that friendship with Iran benefits the region and both countries, The Financial Times said quoting him as saying in an interview.
Rafsanjani and his allies have been worried about growing tension with Saudi Arabia, not just over the nuclear program but also over Iran’s interference in various crises in the Arab world, particularly Syria.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are at loggerheads over Iranian support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Saudi Arabia has supplied funds and weapons to the rebels. The stand-off between Iran and Saudi Arabia has exacerbated sectarian strains across the region.

Rafsanjani is one of the few Iranian political figures who has enjoyed good relations with Saudi leaders. In the interview, he said he was ready to travel to Riyadh and had been invited by King Abdullah to perform last month’s Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage. His intention would be “to reassure them [the Saudis] that friendship with Iran benefits the region and both countries.”

But he hinted that Iran’s leaders first needed to agree on policies of de-escalation. A future trip needed preparation and a decision within Iran on “how we are going to deal with [Saudi Arabia] in a win-win situation.”

Rafsanjani acknowledged that Iran “can play a better role” in Syria and said the fate of Mr Assad would ultimately be decided by Syrians.

“If the Syrian people accept it, it seems to be no problem [for Assad to step down]  . . .,” he said. “We have no right to interfere,” he added.



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