Iranian president hints at efforts to rebuild ties with Saudi Arabia


Iran has launched a charm offensive to try to calm relations with regional rival Saudi Arabia, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told journalists on Monday.

"We also want to improve relations with the Saudis," he said, noting that a recent agreement that cleared the way for Iranian religious pilgrims to journey to holy sites in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, might have been a first step.

Iran is majority Shia, while Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni. Religion is deeply embedded in each country's political system and the two countries are involved in multiple conflicts where they have backed opposing sides, such as in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations to Iran last year after demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and set parts of it on fire, a reaction to a Saudi decision to execute a prominent Shia cleric.

"We immediately condemned the events at the embassy and arrested those responsible," said Rouhani.

He said Tehran is prepared to pay the costs of the damage to the Saudi embassy. Rouhani also held out the possibility of working jointly with Saudi Arabia on a peace plan for Syria, which has been mired in civil war since 2011.

"The Saudis just shouldn't try to turn us into a scapegoat simply because their political calculations in Syria and Yemen haven't worked out," he said.    (dpa)

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