Ahmadinejad, Saudi king reject sectarian strife


Saudi King Abdullah held talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was on his first official trip to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi official said earlier the kingdom would seek Iran’s help to ease sectarian tensions in Iraq erupting into full-blown civil war.


Killings by Sunni and Shi’ite death squads in Iraq and the political crisis in Lebanon dividing Sunni and Shi’ite parties have led to fears of sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are among the most influential nations of their respective branches of Islam.


"The two parties have agreed to stop any attempt aimed at spreading sectarian strife in the region," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters.


"The two leaders stressed that the greatest threat against the Muslim nation are attempts to spread strife between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims," the official Saudi agency SPA said.


Ahmadinejad and King Abdullah also voiced support for Iraq’s government, its national unity and the "equality of its citizens".


Ahmadinejad voiced support for Saudi efforts to ease tensions in Lebanon, and the two leaders called on all parts to cooperate with these efforts, the agency said.


The agency made no reference to Iran’s nuclear programme, which Iranian state media had said was expected to be discussed. SPA said Ahmadinejad left Riyadh after the talks.


Saudi Arabia has led a diplomatic drive in recent months to counterbalance what is regarded as Iran’s growing influence in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.


While Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, Iran is a fierce opponent of Western influence in the region.


The United States is pushing for the United Nations to impose tougher sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process which can make fuel for either atomic bombs or nuclear power plants.

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