Huffpost WorldPost

Saudi Arabia Hosts Arab Leaders In Effort To Undermine Iran

Posted: Updated:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia hosted the leaders of Egypt and Syria on Wednesday in an effort to persuade Damascus to move away from Iran and join with U.S.-allied Arab countries in working to blunt Tehran's influence.

Riyadh hoped the one-day session would improve frayed relations with Syria ahead of an Arab summit in Qatar later this month. The leader of another U.S. ally, Kuwait, also attended, Kuwait's news agency said.

Syria has been feuding with Egypt and Saudi Arabia over several issues _ especially its close alliance with Iran and militant Palestinian and Lebanese groups.

Ahead of the meeting, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak cast doubt on whether the leaders could come to any agreement. Egypt has repeatedly accused Iran, which along with Syria backs the militant Palestinian group Hamas, of trying to thwart Cairo's mediation efforts between rival Palestinian factions.

After the session, Saudi Arabia's official SPA news agency said participants agreed it "was a start of a new phase in relations in which the four nations will endeavor to serve Arab interests through cooperation" and strive for a "unified approach to Arab policies."

The statement said the meeting reflected the four leaders' efforts to "clear the air" and follow King Abdullah's call to "leave past difference behind." It did not mention Iran.

Syrian-Saudi relations became strained after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who also had Saudi citizenship. Many Lebanese have blamed the assassination on Syria, which denies the charge.

Relations soured even more after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, when Syrian President Bashar Assad described leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as "half-men" for their failure to act to stop the violence.

Iran and Syria back Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group in Lebanon that is opposed by predominantly Sunni Egypt and Saudi Arabia.