Iran's Khamenei blames outsiders for Middle East's woes

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 26, 2013 10:25 AM
Iran's Khamenei blames outsiders for Middle East's woes

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed countries outside the Middle East on Monday for the region's turmoil and the Shi'ite cleric said regional states backing radical Sunni Islamists would be damaged by conflict.

Khamenei, the most powerful man in Iran, made the comments in a meeting with Oman's Sultan Qaboos who was in Tehran on a visit Iranian media said may be an effort to mediate between the United States and the Islamic Republic.

If so, Khamenei's comments appeared to be a rebuff of those efforts.

"The main reason behind the status quo in the region is interference from outside the region," the state news agency Fars quoted Khamenei as saying in a meeting with Qaboos.

Khamenei and other top officials in the Islamic Republic frequently call on the United States and European powers to stop what they call interference in the Middle East, accusing them of a plot to take over the region.

His other comments appeared to be directed at Sunni Muslim states in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey which are supporting rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Shi'ite Iran.

"Unfortunately, a Takfiri group has been formed with the support of certain regional states which is in conflict with all Muslim groups, but supporters of this stream should know that this fire will burn them too," Khamenei said.

"Takfiri" is a derogatory term for hardline Sunni Islamists, who accuse Shi'ites and others of being infidels.

Iranian officials, along with the Syrian government, have blamed Syrian rebels for last week's apparent chemical weapons attack outside Damascus which killed hundreds of people.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to his Syrian counterpart on Monday, Iranian news agencies said, and condemned the use of chemical weapons by what he called terrorists. His spokesman also warned against Western military strikes on Syria.

"At a time when the Syrian crisis is at a critical stage due to the use of chemical weapons by terrorists and the region needs peace and patience, talking about readiness to militarily attack Syria without the approval of the Security Council is a dangerous ... thing to do," the state Press TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi as saying.

"Any miscalculation of the situation in Syria would throw the entire region into a dangerous and complicated stage which will ... engulf all regional countries," he said.

(Reporting by Jon Hemming; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)