Iran says Saudi visit aimed to refute US claims
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — 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 Wednesday.
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 Tuesday visit. The prince is also the kingdom's interior minister.
Initially, few reports emerged from the meeting. Saudi diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, 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."
But a senior Iranian hard-liner criticized the Saudi visit's attempt to ease strained Iran-Saudi relations. Hossein Shariatmadari, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Moslehi's trip was a "gift" to a regime on the verge of collapse.
"Unfortunately, it must be said that our diplomatic apparatus unintentionally has given the collapsing Saud family a gift it badly needed under the present circumstances," Shariatmadari wrote in an opinion piece in his hard-line Kayhan newspaper on Wednesday.