CAIRO – Saudi Arabia's top diplomat urged Arabs on Tuesday to stand up to Iran's ambitions in the region, including its nuclear program.
Prince Saud al-Faisal told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo that non-Arab countries should not interfere in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories — all places where the predominantly Persian Iran has been accused of supporting militants.
Arabs fear that the Obama administration's expected efforts to engage Tehran might lead to a deal that would bring U.S. and Iran closer at the expense of Arab interests.
Saud stressed that resolution of disputes among Arabs depended on "a unified and a joint vision" in dealing with the "Iranian challenge in regard to the Arabian Gulf security and the nuclear issue."
The Arabian Gulf is also known as the Persian Gulf.
The predominantly Sunni Arab Middle East has been wary of the growing influence of Shiite Iran, and Saud's comments were a clear call for Arab unity.
His remarks came a day after he and his Arab counterparts expressed their concerns about Iran to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The ministers and Clinton met on the sidelines of an international conference in Egypt that raised $5.2 billion in pledges to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip after Israel's recent offensive.
Last week, Clinton announced the appointment of veteran diplomat Dennis Ross as her special adviser on matters related to the Gulf, including overtures to the Iranians.
Clinton assured the Arab ministers that Washington is carefully considering its moves and will consult fully with Gulf allies on Iran issues.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa said after the ministers' meeting in Cairo that Arabs must be kept informed about Iran.
"I demand that no foreign (power) talks to Iran without Arabs being aware of it and having a role in the process," Moussa said.
Bahrain had asked the ministers to put Iran on the agenda of the Arab League meeting, amid growing concerns in the tiny Gulf kingdom that Iran still holds longtime claims to the island. Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni elite, but its Shiite majority has close ties to Iran.
Also Tuesday in Cairo, Saud and his Egyptian counterpart met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in efforts to bridge the rift between the two U.S.-allied Arab powerhouses and the Iran-backed Syria.