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Tehran-Riyadh talks to cover West Asia

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has arrived in Riyadh for talks that could help ease sectarian tensions in Iraq and encourage a political settlement of the crisis in Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz received Mr. Ahmadinejad at the airport, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. His Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accompanied the Iranian President.

The Iranian English daily Tehran Times reported ahead of the visit that Mr. Ahmadinejad's arrival in Riyadh was "the culmination of months of diplomatic efforts by the two regional powers... to settle the political standoff in Lebanon, cool sectarian violence in Iraq and possibly even avert a looming confrontation with the United States." Iran's Fars News Agency said discussions on West Asia and Iran's nuclear case can be expected during Mr. Ahmadinejad's one-day stay.

An editorial in the Saudi English daily, Arab News, underscored the political importance of the visit.

It said the visit "should lay to rest suggestions voiced in other parts of the world that Saudi Arabia and Iran are rivals and that the rivalry may end up with Kingdom seeking nuclear weapons if the Islamic Republic obtains them. This is fantasy."

Coinciding with the visit, a top Lebanese politician has praised the joint role that Tehran and Riyadh have been playing to ease tensions in Lebanon.

Saad Hariri, a leading Sunni politician and son of the Lebanon's slain former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, has said Iran and Saudi Arabia had "good ideas for a solution."

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