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Rouhani Says Saudi Accusations Against Iran Distract From Riyadh's 'Failures'

President Hassan Rouhani in his interview on the occasion of first hundred days of his second term in office.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused Saudi Arabia of trying to distract attention from Riyadh's "failures" at home and abroad by villifying Iran as the alleged culprit behind conflicts in the Middle East.

"Saudi Arabia seeks to solve two problems through enmity with Iran; first it wants to cover-up its failures in the region...and second, its domestic problems," Rouhani said in a live interview on state television on November 28.

"Saudi Arabia was unsuccessful in Qatar, was unsuccessful in Iraq, in Syria, and recently in Lebanon. In all of these areas, they were unsuccessful," Rouhani said. "So they want to cover up their defeats."

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Persian Gulf region recently have accused predominantly Shi'ite Iran of fomenting terrorism and conflict in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

The kingdom's Crown Prince escalated the verbal war last week by calling the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, "the new Hitler of the Middle East," in an interview with the New York Times.

The two regional powers have been engaged for years in proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, where they support opposing sides in bitter conflicts that, according to United Nations estimates, have killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions, and brought Yemen to the verge of famine.

Tensions soared this month when Lebanon’s Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced he was resigning on a visit to Riyadh, blaming the growing power of Iran and its ally Hezbollah, which is part of Lebanon's ruling coalition.

Hariri afterwards reconsidered and has since returned home to negotiate with Hezbollah and other coalition partners. But this week he threatened again to resign if Hezbollah does not withdraw from Syria, where its Shi'ite fighters along with Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the government's six-year war with Sunni rebels.

Rouhani contended in the television interview that Tehran and its allies -- Iraq, Syria, and Russia -- have achieved "big accomplishments" in the region and are helping to bring stability through their military cooperation.

The Iranian president was speaking on the occasion of the first hundred days in his second term, after being sworn in in August.

On domestic issues, Rouhani insisted that he has not forgotten his pre-election promises to the people.

One important promise he made was to end the house arrests of two former presidential candidates, who ran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. In the interview, Rouhani did not name them, but made indirect references to the case.

After more than three months in office, Rouhani is seen as weak on delivering the social and political openness he promised during his campaign in May.

Courts and security-intelligence forces under the control of Supreme Leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei continue to take harsh steps against critics and take actions that interfere with the executive branch headed by Rouhani.

With reporting by AP and Reuters