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Saudi Arabia ‘seeks Iraq’s help’ to mend ties with Iran

The government of Saudi Arabia has sought the help of Iraq’s prime minister to mend relations between Riyadh and Tehran, according to news reports.

Citing Qasim al-Araji, Iraq’s interior minister, the Iraqi satellite channel Alghadeer reported that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, had asked Haider al-Abadi to lead the mediation with Iran.

“During our visit to Saudi Arabia, they also asked us to do so, and we said that to [the] Iranian side. The Iranian side looked at this demand positively,” Araji was quoted as saying by Alghadeer on Sunday.

“After the victories that Iraq has achieved, it [Saudi Arabia] began looking to Iraq, at its true size and leading role.

“The calm and stability and the return of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have positive repercussions on the region as a whole.”

Araji visited the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday to discuss “several issues” with top Iranian officials, according to reports. He also visited Saudi Arabia in July.

The Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Araji in Farsi as saying that Mohammed bin Salman wanted to “ease tensions” with Iran.

Separately, Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential Iraqi Shia leader, announced on his website that he would be visiting the UAE on Sunday.

In July, Sadr made a rare visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met Mohammed bin Salman and other officials.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah on July 30

Sadr, an anti-American figure, commands a large following among the urban poor of Baghdad and the southern cities, including Saraya al-Salam, or Peace Brigades armed group.

According to Al jazeera news, he is now seen as a nationalist who has repeatedly called for protests against corruption in the Iraqi government, and his supporters have staged huge protests in Baghdad calling for electoral reform.

Shia-majority Iraq lies on the faultline between Shia Iran and Sunni-ruled Arab Gulf monarchies including Saudi Arabia. In 2016 Iraq offered to mediate between the two countries.

In January 2016, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran after an attack by protesters on its embassy in Tehran.

Protesters were angrily reacting to Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute Shia religious leader Nimr al-Nimr, who was put to death along with 46 mostly Sunni Muslims convicted on terrorism charges.

At that point, the rival regional powers had been engaged in a war of words following the death of Iranian Hajj pilgrims outside Mecca in 2015.

Iran said at least 460 Iranians were killed in the incident, but Saudi Arabia officially reported only 131 Iranians dead.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have also accused each other of backing proxies in the war in Yemen and Syria.

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