Saudi Arabia says backs U.S. decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia welcomed President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw the United States from the international nuclear agreement with Iran and to reimpose economic sanctions on its arch-foe Tehran.

The kingdom, a key U.S. ally, said it would work with the United States and the international community to address Iran’s nuclear program as well as its ballistic missile program and support of militant groups in the region.

“Iran used economic gains from the lifting of sanctions to continue its activities to destabilize the region, particularly by developing ballistic missiles and supporting terrorist groups in the region,” according to a Saudi Foreign Ministry statement.

It confirmed “the need to deal with the danger that Iran’s policies pose to international peace and security through a comprehensive view that is not limited to its nuclear program but also includes all hostile activities” in the region.

The 2015 deal, the signature foreign policy achievement of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program to prevent it from being able to make an atomic bomb.

Trump has frequently criticized the Iran accord because it does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria, its nuclear activities beyond 2025, and the terms under which international inspectors can visit suspect Iranian nuclear sites.

Saudi Arabia has called the 2015 nuclear deal a “flawed agreement”, and in March Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS news that his kingdom would “without a doubt” develop nuclear weapons if Iran did so.

The Sunni Muslim kingdom has been at loggerheads with Shi’ite Iran for decades. They have fought a long-running proxy war in the Middle East and beyond, backing opposing sides in armed conflicts and political crises including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin and Sarah Dadouch; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Michael Georgy and Hugh Lawson