TEHRAN - The Associated Press
Tehran is seeking to fill the power vacuum in the region by strengthening ties with its neighbors on all sides after the diminishing US presence.
Iran's Parliament speaker Ali Larijani speaks to the media during a news conference in Tehran November 30, 2011. REUTERS Photo
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met with the leading Iraqi Shiite political and religious leader, Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar al-Hakim and urged all Iraqi religious and national groups to maintain unity and coordination in order to bolster the Iraq’s political, security and regional position, on the eve of U.S. withdrawal. Larijani reiterated that parliamentary cooperation between the two countries would play a significant role in developing sustainable ties, Iran’s Press TV website reported.
He said Iraq has the capacity to play a key role in regional events thanks to its considerable political and economic potential. Hakim, for his part, said the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq would help the country establish better security, and also said close ties between Tehran and Baghdad can serve as a model for other regional nations.
A rare visit by Iran’s intelligence chief to Saudi Arabia sought to refute U.S. claims that Tehran planned to kill the kingdom’s ambassador to Washington, a senior Iranian official said on Dec. 14.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran also wanted to convince Saudi Arabia that the U.S. and Israel are seeking to sow seeds of discord between the two regional powers.
Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi was reported to have met the Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz Al Saud during his Dec. 13 visit. The prince is also the kingdom’s interior minister.
Saudi diplomats said the two discussed regional issues, including developments in Syria and Bahrain.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the U.S. is in “lockstep with Saudi Arabia with regard to our concerns about what Iran is up to, particularly in the wake of the assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador here.” She said it was an opportunity for the Saudis to deliver that message, but she would not say whether it was delivered.
Iran has dismissed the U.S. accusations that Tehran was involved in a plot to assassinate Adel Al-Jubeir, calling the claims “absurd.” Two men, including a member of Iran’s Quds Force special foreign actions unit, have been charged in New York federal court in the plot. Moslehi said in October that there are holes in the U.S. allegations, dismissing the American claims as a “foolish plot” that nobody will believe. The Iranian government has denied any connection to Manssor Arbabsiar, the man arrested in the alleged plot, and derided the claims, saying U.S. officials have offered no proof.
Arbabsiar is a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who also had an Iranian passport.
“Definitely, one of the issues for discussion is the misunderstandings that have been raised,” Mehmanparast was quoted by the state Al-Alam TV channel Wednesday as saying about the Saudi visit. “The U.S. has leveled baseless charges against Iran,” he said. “Transparent and frank talks are needed to remove suspicions and clarify what objectives are sought behind these scenarios.”