Sat, 05 Dec 2020

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz has taken aim at Iran during a speech to the UN General Assembly, calling for a comprehensive solution to contain the Islamic republic and stop it from getting weapons of mass destruction.

'A comprehensive solution and a firm international position are required,' he said in a video statement that was prerecorded and delivered on September 23 during the second day of the UN General Assembly's virtual general debate.

'Our experience with the Iranian regime has taught us that partial solutions and appeasement did not stop its threats to international peace and security,' King Salman said in his debut speech to the 193-member UN General Assembly's annual meeting, which this year has gone virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said Iran had exploited a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers 'to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism,' adding that this had produced nothing but 'chaos, extremism, and sectarianism.'

The United States quit the pact in 2018 and has since imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran as it pushes Tehran to negotiate a new deal. On September 21 it announced new sanctions against Iran's Defense Ministry and other bodies involved in its nuclear and weapons program, continuing a policy it describes as 'maximum pressure' in response to 'malign behavior' by Tehran.

All the remaining parties to the nuclear deal and 13 of the 15 UN Security Council members say the U.S. claim on sanctions is void, and diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose the measures.

In his speech King Salman also expressed support for U.S. efforts to start talks between Israel and the Palestinians and called for disarming Hizballah in Lebanon.

'We support the efforts of the current U.S. administration to achieve peace in the Middle East by bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiation table to reach a fair and comprehensive agreement,' he said.

He stopped short of endorsing recent U.S.-brokered agreements between the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Bahrain with Israel.

Palestinian leaders have condemned the warming of relations between the U.A.E. and Bahrain with Israel, describing the development as a betrayal of efforts to win Palestinian statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

King Salman also said a deadly blast in Beirut last month occurred because of the 'hegemony of Hizballah over the decision-making process in Lebanon by force of arms' and said Hizballah was a terrorist organization that must be disarmed.

Iran's UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the king's remarks, according to Reuters.

Iran's president, Hassan Rohani, spoke to the UN General Assembly on September 22, defiantly rejecting what he said were U.S. efforts to make his country 'a bargaining chip in U.S. elections and domestic policy.'

He said the United States could force 'neither negotiations nor war' on Iran.

Sunni Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite-dominated Iran are locked in several proxy wars, including in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Tehran-aligned Huthi rebels for more than five years.

Iran denies arming groups in the Middle East, including the Huthis, and blames regional tensions on the United States and its Persian Gulf allies.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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