TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah have had telephonic discussions on regional affairs for a second time within a fortnight, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Thursday.
The Wednesday evening conversation comes at a time when the two regional arch-rivals are at odds over what is perceived as rising Iranian influence in Lebanese politics and protracted efforts to form a government in Iraq.
“In this telephone call, the heads of the two states discussed boosting bilateral cooperation, as well as recent developments in the region and in the international scene,” IRNA reported.
Ahmadinejad and Abdullah last spoke to each other by telephone on October 12, one day before the Iranian leader went to Lebanon for a groundbreaking visit during which he was giving a hero’s welcome by Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel.
The United States and Israel criticised the visit as a provocation and a threat to regional stability.
Washington labels Hezbollah, which is known as Iran’s Shiite proxy in Lebanon, a terrorist organisation.
On Iraq, Saudi Arabia is widely believed to have supported former Iraqi prime Minister Iyad Allawi in elections held in March.
Analysts believe Riyadh see Allawi’s rival, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as being too close to Iran. Maliki was on Monday in Tehran where he urged the Islamic republic to help rebuild his war-battered country.
In the election, Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc earned 91 seats, two seats ahead of Maliki’s State of Law alliance, in the battle for control of the 325-member Council of Representatives.
But since then neither has been able to demonstrate enough support to assume the premiership.
At a meeting of regional interior ministers last month in Manama, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz called for a swift resolution of the stalemate.
“We are closely following the situation in Iraq and we clearly see gross interference in its internal affairs,” Prince Naif said, without elaborating.