Rouhani says Iran 'ready' to talk to Arab neighbours

Iranian political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam, sentenced to prison for propaganda against the regime, supports the government of President Hassan Rouhani, pictured here on February 11, 2018 (AFP Photo/STRINGER)
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Tehran (AFP) - President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said Iran is ready to discuss regional security issues with its Gulf Arab neighbours as long as foreign powers are kept out of any potential talks.

"We don't need foreigners to guarantee the security of our region," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television.

"When it comes to regional security arrangements, we are ready to talk to our neighbours and friends, without the presence of foreigners," he added.

"We are, have been and always will be good neighbours," Rouhani said, addressing Gulf Arab countries including Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani was speaking in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas overlooking the Gulf -- a flashpoint of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The two powers, who severed diplomatic ties in January 2016, have taken opposing sides in wars in Syria and Yemen.

Shiite-dominated Iran is the main regional backer of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni rebels supported by Saudi Arabia.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing since 2015 Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels opposed to the internationally recognised government.

Western powers and their Gulf Arab allies say Iran is a destabilising influence in the Middle East.

Tehran, however, has regularly called for dialogue with its neighbours free of any foreign interference.

Rouhani's comments came a day after the United States and three European allies condemned Iran after the United Nations found Tehran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen by failing to block supplies of missiles and drones to Huthi rebels.

The condemnation came after Russia vetoed a British-drafted resolution renewing sanctions on Yemen and citing "particular concern" about a report's findings on Iran.

Rouhani paid tribute to "Russia's just and intelligent stance".

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