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Saudi prince: Iran war in nobody’s interest

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service and a senior member of the Al Saud dynasty

A senior member of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia says he hopes it will not take too long for the kingdom and Iran to restore diplomatic ties. 

Riyadh severed relations with Tehran after angry protesters attacked Saudi embassy in Iran following the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

In an interview with France 24 news network, Prince Turki al-Faisal accused Iranian police of “sitting back and letting protesters attack” the embassy.

Faisal, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service, claimed that the assault had been authorized by Iranian officials.

“I think there is no way that we can interpret it in Saudi Arabia other than that,” he said. 

Iranian police have arrested dozens of people over the attack which senior officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, have condemned. 

Saudi Arabia pounced on the attack to cut relations with Iran as international condemnation grew over the execution. 

The incident also helped Riyadh raise the ante in its escalation of tensions following Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.

While Saudi rulers have denounced the deal, Faisal said the agreement “may be good,” but “Iran has to change its course.”

He also dismissed the likelihood of a military confrontation between the two regional powers, saying it “is not going to be in anybody’s interest.”

On Wednesday, President Rouhani said Iran has fulfilled all of its duties to reduce tensions.

“We condemned the raid on the embassy, and identified and arrested the assailants… They will be tried. But Saudi measures in continuing tensions are unjustifiable,” he said in Rome. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talks to reporters during a press conference in the Italian capital, Rome, January 27, 2016. 

President Rouhani also ruled out an Iranian apology over the incident, saying it was rather up to Saudi Arabia to apologize over many of its actions. 

"Why should we apologize? Because Nimr al-Nimr was executed? We are the ones to apologize because they are killing the people of Yemen? Apologize to them because they are helping terrorists?" he asked.

"We do not want tensions with Saudi Arabia to continue," he said, but insisted there was "no justification" for Riyadh's "aggressive" policies in the region.

"They are the ones who should apologize to Muslim people, hundreds of times," Rouhani said.

Attack on President Assad

In the interview, Faisal called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is fighting foreign-backed militants in the likes of Daesh and Nusra Front as the “biggest terrorist.” 

The Saudi prince said the Syrian government should be excluded from Geneva peace talks planned for Friday.

“As far as Daesh and other terrorists are kept from the (negotiating) table, I think Bashar al-Assad should be kept from the table,” he said.

“If Bashar is going to stay in a responsible position, it means we have given up our principles of not allowing terrorists to participate in these talks,” he added.   

The Takfiri ideology followed by Daesh and other terrorists has its roots in Saudi Arabia where it is promoted by clerics and tolerated by rulers. Many of the militants fighting in Syria are also supported by the kingdom and its allies.  

Faisal, meanwhile, defended a Saudi military campaign against neighboring Yemen which have killed hundreds of people, including many women and children.  

“If Saudi Arabia had not interfered, the situation would have been much worse,” he claimed, calling it “a necessary decision.”

“Yemen is not a quagmire,” Faisal further said, dismissing a view widely held by many observers who criticize the kingdom’s confrontational policies under its new rulers and brand them as rash.

“The kingdom has been very steadfast and very rational and logical pursuing common interests for everybody including Saudi interests in Yemen and Bahrain, or in Iraq or Syria,” he said.

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