DOHA, Qatar (AP) — In an attempt to allay Arab concerns about his country's role in the region, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Wednesday that Tehran's assistance to the Iraqi people in confronting the extremist Islamic State group, has prevented more countries from being threatened by IS terrorism.
Larijani spoke Wednesday at a press conference in the Qatari capital of Doha after meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani; a day earlier he met Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Iran shares the world's largest gas field with Qatar in the Persian Gulf, and has economic relations with Kuwait.
He said that Tehran was asked by Iraq's government to help them fight the IS group, which has taken over about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iran and the Shiite militias it supports are leading the battle to dislodge the militant Islamic group from the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Its increasingly hands-on role in Iraq has both left the U.S. and Gulf Arab nations wary as they carry out their own parallel campaign against IS fighters.
Larijani said he spoke with Qatar's emir about the security situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where a rebel Shiite group has overrun the capital.
Qatar and Kuwait are members of a six-nation bloc of Gulf Arab countries that have accused Iran of interfering in neighboring Yemen. In an apparent reference to regional rival Saudi Arabia, Larijani said the crisis in Yemen should not be handled with bias against certain groups, but through dialogue.
Some media in Saudi Arabia have suggested that Iran sent military personnel to Yemen to help the rebels overthrow the Saudi and U.S.-backed Yemeni president — who has since fled to the southern port city of Aden. Larijani insisted that Iran has no ground forces in Yemen.
He also downplayed recent comments by Ali Younesi, one of more than a dozen advisers to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Younesi was quoted in Iranian media on Sunday saying Iran and Iraq are united and essentially part of Tehran's sphere of influence.
Larijani said Iran's policy is based on peaceful co-existence and Islamic unity.
Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.