April 8, 2009 / 5:52 PM / 11 years ago

Britain calls for united front to deal with Iran

RIYADH (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called Wednesday for a “united front” between Gulf Arab countries and global powers to deal with Iran.

“I know that many countries in the region are concerned not just about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program but also (about) Iranian activities in the region that cause instability in many countries of the Middle East,” Miliband told reporters in Saudi Arabia.

“I think it’s very important that there is a united front between the countries of Europe, America, Russia and China and countries of the Gulf in addressing the range of issues that are posed by the Iranian regime,” he said.

Miliband made his remarks after talks with Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, whose Sunni-led monarchy has been waging a diplomatic campaign to reduce Shi’ite Iran’s growing influence in the region.

Britain was among six powers which said Wednesday they would invite Iran for talks to seek a diplomatic solution to the long-running dispute over its nuclear program.

It and the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany said they would ask European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Tehran to a meeting.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pushed for a “new beginning” in bilateral ties with Iran.

Saudi Prince Saud last month urged Arabs to agree on how to tackle the “Iranian challenge” on the nuclear issue, Gulf security and what he termed as “penetration by some outside parties of Arab affairs in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.”

Riyadh and fellow Arab conservatives who maintain close ties with the United States are alarmed at Iran’s influence in the region through backing for political groups.

Iran is a non-Arab, Shi’ite Muslim power that has challenged Western influence in the region since the revolution in 1979.

Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the leader of mainstream Sunni Islam, fears that the United States and Iran will come to a historic agreement recognizing Iran as the regional power in the Gulf — creating a possible threat to Al Saud family rule.

Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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