Faisal: Arabs should stand up to Iran

At Arab League meeting in Cairo, Saudi FM urges joint vision in dealing with "Iranian challenge."

Saud Al Faisal 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Saud Al Faisal 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Saudi Arabia's top diplomat urged Arabs on Tuesday to stand up to Iran's ambitions in the region, including its nuclear program. Prince Saud al-Faisal told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo that non-Arab countries should not interfere in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Faisal stressed that resolution of disputes among Arabs depended on "a unified and a joint vision" in dealing with the "Iranian challenge in regard to the Arabian Gulf security and the nuclear issue." The predominantly Sunni Arab Middle East has been wary of the growing influence of Shi'ite Iran and Faisal's comments were a clear call for Arab unity. His remarks came a day after he and his Arab counterparts expressed their concerns about Iran to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The ministers and Clinton met on the sidelines of an international conference in Egypt on Monday that raised $5.2 billion in pledges to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip. Last week, Clinton announced the appointment of veteran diplomat Dennis Ross to be her special adviser on matters related to the Gulf, including overtures to the Iranians. Arabs fear that the Obama administration's expected efforts to engage Teheran might lead to a deal that would bring US and Iran closer at the expense of Arab interests. But Clinton assured the Arab ministers that Washington is carefully considering its moves and will consult fully with Gulf allies on Iran issues. At the meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, Bahrain asked the ministers to put Iran on the agenda of the Arab League meeting, amid growing concerns in the tiny Gulf kingdom that Iran still holds longtime claims to the island. Those concerns were sparked by recent comments by a prominent Iranian cleric who was quoted by Iranian media as saying Bahrain was the 14th province of Iran until 1970. Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni elite but its Shi'ite majority has close ties to Iran. Also Tuesday in Cairo, Faisal and his Egyptian counterpart met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in efforts to bridge the rift between the two US-allied Arab powerhouses and the Iran-backed Syria.