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Saudi king says kingdom concerned about Iran’s ‘lack of cooperation’

DUBAI, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Saudi King Salman said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia was concerned about Iran’s lack of cooperation with the international community on its nuclear and ballistic missile program.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz said in an address to the kingdom’s advisory Shura Council that he hoped Iran would change its “negative” behavior in the region and choose dialogue and cooperation.

“We follow with concern the Iranian government’s policy which is destabilising regional security and stability, including building and backing sectarian armed militias and propagating its military power in other countries,” the 85-old ruler said in a speech published by state news agency SPA.

“(We follow with concern) its lack of cooperation with the international community regarding its nuclear program and its development of ballistic missiles,” he added.

Saudi Arabia, a major Western ally in the Gulf, has been locked in a bitter rivalry with Iran across the Middle East where both sides have backed opposing factions in several conflicts including in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries expelled Lebanese envoys in October in a diplomatic spat that has added to Lebanon’s economic crisis. Saudi officials said the crisis with Beirut has its origins in a Lebanese political setup that reinforces the dominance of the Iran-backed Hezbollah armed group.

“The Kingdom also stands by the brotherly Lebanese people, and urges all Lebanese leaders to prioritize the interests of their people … and stop Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony over the structures of the state,” King Salman said.

In a step to ease tensions, Saudi and Iranian officials met in a series of direct talks earlier this year but they have yet to yield a breakthrough.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates

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