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Saudi king urges action against Iran, backs Yemen peace

RIYADH: Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz addresses the Shura Council yesterday. – AFP

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman urged the international community yesterday to halt Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and reiterated the kingdom’s support for UN efforts to end the war in Yemen. The king’s annual remarks to the Shura Council, a top governmental advisory body, were his first public comments since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, which sparked a global outcry.

King Salman, who did not mention the Khashoggi affair, condemned the actions of Iran, its archrival for influence in the region, including in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. “The Iranian regime has always intervened in the internal affairs of other countries, sponsored terrorism, created chaos and devastation in many countries in the region,” the 82-year-old monarch said. “The international community has to work to put an end to the Iranian nuclear program and stop its activities that threaten security and stability.”

The king said Riyadh supported UN efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-backed coalition has been battling Iran-aligned Houthi rebels for nearly four years to restore the internationally-recognized government. “Our standing by Yemen was not an option but a duty to support the Yemeni people in confronting the aggression of Iranian-backed militias,” he said. The Houthis said yesteray they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their Yemeni allies, and indicated readiness for a broader ceasefire if the Saudi-led coalition “wants peace”.

In his speech, King Salman said Saudi Arabia would continue working with OPEC and non-OPEC members to maintain stability in global energy markets. He also reaffirmed Saudi support for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, a long-standing position thrown into question last year when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to back a nascent US peace plan that aligns with that of Israel on key issues.

Yesterday, the king signaled that the crown prince remains empowered to pursue ambitious economic reforms, praising a “comprehensive developmental transformation” underway. He directed his son, sitting in the hall,” to focus on… preparing the new generation for future jobs”. King Salman also praised the Saudi judiciary and prosecution service for “performing the duties they were entrusted with”, without elaborating. In addition to the Khashoggi case, the public prosecutor has participated in an anti-corruption campaign ordered by Prince Mohammed last year in which scores of princes, ministers and businessmen were arrested and the state said it recovered $100 billion in stolen assets. – Reuters

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