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Iran says is ready for 'straight talks' with Saudi Arabia

Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday it was ready for “straight talks” with Saudi Arabia over contentious issues that have kept the rival Gulf powers at loggerheads for more than three decades.

Relations between Tehran and Riyadh soured after Iran’s 1979 revolution brought to power Shi’ite clerics opposed to the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom.

The two countries, struggling for regional influence and power, have backed opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen conflicts and argued over global oil prices.

An Iranian official said this week Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delayed a visit to Saudi Arabia in protest against Riyadh’s refusal to cut crude output and help lift prices.

But Admiral Ali Shamkhani, a top security aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his country “is now quite ready to for straight, clear and continuous talks spanning the whole range of mutual interests with Saudi Arabia.”

“In light of unprecedented human and financial losses caused by sectarian conflicts, (we) need to stop further bloodshed and wage an earnest fight against extremism and terrorism that has found expression in Daesh (Islamic State)”, Shamkhani told Iran’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, according to state news agency IRNA.

Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; Editing by Dominic Evans