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Iran Says Ready For Talks With Saudi, With Or Without A Mediator


Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is welcomed by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, September 19, 2019

Reuters - Iran is prepared to hold talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia with or without the help of a mediator, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, ahead of a visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Asked about reports that Khan, due to arrive in Iran on Sunday, may try to mediate between Tehran and Riyadh, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: "I am not aware of any mediation," according to state broadcaster IRIB.

"Iran has announced that, with or without a mediator, it is always ready to hold talk with its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, to get rid of any misunderstandings," Mousavi added.

Two senior Pakistani government officials confirmed to Reuters that Khan was going to Tehran to try to defuse tensions between the two rivals, after U.S. President Donald Trump asked for his help.

"The prime minister is also visiting Saudi Arabia next week," one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to talk about confidential matters.

"His mission is to try open negotiations, or some sort of confidence building for the two rival countries to start some talks," the official said.

Iran’s foreign minister signaled this week that his country would be willing to discuss regional issues with Saudi Arabia, but that Riyadh had to stop "killing people".

Khan is scheduled to have meetings with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, it said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince have approved the deployment of additional U.S. troops and equipment, after an attack last month on the kingdom's oil facilities, state news agency SPA reported on Saturday.

The United States announced a deployment of about 3,000 troops to the Gulf state, including fighter squadrons, an air expeditionary wing and air defense personnel, amid heightened tensions with Saudi's arch-rival Iran.

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