TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's Foreign Ministry warned Saudi Arabia on Tuesday that comments calling it "part of the problem" in the Middle East may damage diplomatic ties, the country's state news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni powerhouse, and Iran, the dominant Shiite force in the Middle East, long have viewed each other with suspicion. However the two countries have recently tried to get closer ties through bilateral meetings and visits.
On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal accused Tehran of having forces inside Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and insisted that Iran is "part of the problem" in trying to defuse a myriad of Mideast crises.
Reacting to al-Faisal, Iran's IRNA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian as saying: "The remark, if the report carried it precisely, is in contradiction with diplomatic negotiators between the two countries."
Iran insists it has no forces on the ground in any of the three countries, but has sent advisers to help Syrian President Bashar Assad amid his country's three-year civil war, as well as to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to help Iraq battle the Islamic State group.
Iran is Syria's strongest ally in the Middle East, and has provided Assad's government with military and political backing for years. Iran also is believed to be sending weapons and money to Syria.
Amirabdollahian said that Iran helps both Iraq and Syria to fight terrorism and called Yemen's current crisis a domestic issue. He also noted that Saudi Arabia, leading other Sunni-ruled Gulf countries, sent troops to Bahrain to quell an uprising there.
"If Riyadh would have ended its military presence in Bahrain, then the political solution and the termination of suppression of the people, as well as a national dialogue, could be realized," Amirabdollahian said.