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Saudi King Calls For Urgent Arab Summit Amid Rising Tensions With Iran

Saudi King Salman has called for an urgent summit in Mecca among Arab allies amid rising tensions with Iran.
Saudi King Salman has called for an urgent summit in Mecca among Arab allies amid rising tensions with Iran.

Saudi Arabia has called for two urgent meetings of its Arab allies later this month to discuss recent attacks on shipping and oil production sites amid rising tensions with bitter regional rival Iran.

Saudi King Salman on May 18 called for leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League to meet for the emergency summits in Mecca on May 30.

Saudi and other officials said the discussions would focus on an attack on four commercial vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a series of armed drone attacks on oil production sites near Riyadh.

Iran has denied it was involved in the attack on the vessels. Yemen-based Houthi rebels, who are supported by Tehran, have claimed responsibility for the drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

A Norwegian insurers' report seen by Reuters said Iran's Revolutionary Guards were "highly likely" to have facilitated the attack on vessels near the UAE's Fujairah oil export port, a main bunkering hub lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Leaders at the summits will "discuss these aggressions and their repercussions on the region," the official Saudi news agency SPA quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying.

The U.A.E., a close Saudi ally, welcomed King Salman’s call to convene the Mecca summits and said the “critical circumstances” in the Middle East called for a united stand by Arab nations in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are strong allies of the United States in the geopolitical battle against Shi’ite-led Iran.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on May 19 accused Iran of seeking to destabilize the region and urged the international community to take responsibility to stop Tehran from doing so.

The flurry of activity comes amid increasing tensions between the United States and Iran. Washington has beefed up its military presence in the Middle East after what it said were intelligence reports suggesting Iran was planning an attack.

Despite the moves, U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is not looking to start a war with Tehran and has urged Iranian leaders to sit down for talks.

Iranian leaders have also dismissed the possibility of war.

"There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a visit to Beijing, Iran's IRNA state news agency reported.

Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, also said his country "does not want a war in the region nor does it seek that."

"It will do what it can to prevent this war and, at the same time, it reaffirms that in the event the other side chooses war, the kingdom will respond with all force and determination, and it will defend itself and its interests."

At the same time, Saudi Press Agency on Sunday said the Saudi crown prince spoke on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about efforts to enhance security in the region.

Meanwhile, the small Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain said it is ordering all of its citizens to immediately leave Iraq and Iran amid the rising tensions in the region.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry cited the "unstable situation in the region and the grave developments and threats that threaten security and stability."

Sunni-led Bahrain regularly accuses Iran of stirring dissent among its Shi’ite-majority population.

Reports from Iraq say that the oil giant Exxon Mobil is evacuations its American staff of 50 from the southern oil-rich province of Basra.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AFP