RIYADH: A powerful Saudi royal said on Tuesday that there could be no rapprochement between his country and Iran, which he said wanted to dominate the Muslim world.

In a television interview, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also said that his kingdom could withstand a long war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia fights in support of pro-government forces against Iran-backed rebels.

“How can we get along with a regime which has an extremist ideology... and a profound wish to dominate the Muslim world and spread the Shiite faith?” Prince Mohammed said.

Saudi Arabia’s longstanding accusations of regional interference by Iran have found a more favourable ear in Washington since President Donald Trump took office in January. The region’s two leading powers have no diplomatic ties and are at odds over a range of issues, including the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Prince Mohammed said “there are no points of convergence” with Tehran, whose principle aim is to harm his kingdom.

Saudi leaders regularly accuse Iran of stirring regional conflicts by supporting movements in Syria, Iraq and Bahrain as well as in Yemen. Tehran denies the charges and in turn says Riyadh supports radical Islamist groups.

Prince Mohammed, interviewed on MBC television, said that Iran never acted with sincerity towards Saudi Arabia and that all its attempts at rapprochement were “comedies”.

“The Houthis and their allies could be rooted out in several days but the cost would be thousands of dead among our soldiers and losses too high among the Yemeni civilians,” the prince said, adding that “a long war is in our interest”, as the coalition has the advantage in arms supply and financing.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2017

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