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Iranian Ayatollah Chides Saudi FM

By VOA News

A prominent Iranian cleric has criticized Saudi Arabia's foreign minister for his recent remarks about Iran.

During Friday prayers, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami chastised Prince Saud al-Faisal, saying his comments sounded like the foreign minister of Israel, Iran's arch-foe.

The Saudi diplomat earlier this week called on his fellow Arabs to join together to confront what he termed the "Iranian challenge" posed by the non-Arab nation's nuclear program and its intentions pertaining to security in the Gulf.

Ayatollah Khatami, in a sermon carried by Iranian state radio, said Israel is trying to "distract" Arabs. He added that Iran's nuclear program is an honor for the Islamic world.

The Saudi official's comments were just one of several questioning Iran's role in the region this week. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Iran to stop interfering in Palestinian affairs.

His comments coincided with a Tehran conference in support of Abbas rival Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

At the conference, Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Israel, which fought a war against Hamas in Gaza early this year, is a "cancerous tumor," remarks that drew the ire of western diplomats.

Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, Thursday postponed a planned trip to Iran over the characterization, as well as anti-American comments by Iranian officials. Italy also criticized the Gaza conference in Tehran, saying it is counterproductive.

Morocco Severs Relations With Iran

Morocco's state news agency reports that Rabat has cut diplomatic ties with Iran.

A foreign ministry statement carried by the MAP news agency Friday said the move is effective immediately.

Morocco recalled its envoy to Iran for a week late last month to protest an Iranian official's comments that appeared to question the sovereignty of Bahrain. Former parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri sparked alarm in the Persian Gulf state by saying Bahrain was an Iranian province until 1971.

MAP reported that Iran failed to answer Rabat's request for an explanation about what it called the Iranian government's singling out of Morocco over its solidarity with Bahrain.

Iranian officials have tried to downplay the comments, sending its interior minister for a visit to Manama and assuring Bahrain that Tehran respects its sovereignty.

Arab nations have recently expressed concern about Iran's regional intentions. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister this week sought Arab unity in the face of what he called the "Iranian challenge."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

... Payvand News - 03/07/09 ... --

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