Saudi Arabia wants Iran to take a more neutral stance between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims in the Mideast to prevent a dangerous increase in sectarian tensions, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said.
Iran backs Shi'ite groups in conflicts with Sunni factions in Lebanon and Iraq, two crisis points in the region that have raised Saudi fears of a sectarian explosion.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia is worried that Shi'ite-Sunni fighting in Iraq, with whom it shares a long border, and sectarian tensions in Lebanon could explode out of control and damage its own interests or even lead the US to attack Iran, which would have repercussions across the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia has a sizable Shi'ite population in its own oil-rich east, where it also worries about unrest. In the past month, the kingdom has opened contacts with its longtime rival Iran in a bid to defuse the Lebanese and Iraqi crises.