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Iran President Rouhani says Iran ready to improve ties with Gulf states

File photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Iran Feb 17, 2019, 05.44 PM (IST)

Iran is ready to work with all of its neighbours to secure peace in the Middle East in the face of US and Israeli aggression, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday (February 17), in his latest attempt to weaken ties between regional rival Saudi Arabia and America.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been fighting proxy wars for years, backing opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

But pressure is building on Tehran after US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions. Saudi Arabia welcomed the move.

In a public speech in the southern Hormozgan province, broadcast live on state TV, Rouhani said, "We want to establish brotherly ties with all countries of the region ... Iran has never started any aggression in the region."

Rouhani's previous overtures to Saudi Arabia, such as after his election in 2013 and efforts by his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in 2017, have had no success, and some analysts were sceptical his latest attempt would be different.

Iran accuses Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of supporting militant Sunni groups that carry out attacks against Iranian forces, including a suicide bombing on Wednesday in Iran's southeastern province that borders Pakistan.

Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 27 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Revolutionary Guards have threatened Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan with retaliation.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan deny backing the militants. Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday summoned Pakistan's ambassador to protest about Wednesday's attack.