No danger of war with Iran, says Saudi prince

Saudi Prince Mohammed (second from left), seen here at the Arab-South American summit held in Riyadh last November, says the kingdom went to war in Yemen because the "Houthis usurped power in the capital".
Saudi Prince Mohammed (second from left), seen here at the Arab-South American summit held in Riyadh last November, says the kingdom went to war in Yemen because the "Houthis usurped power in the capital".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He says that would be a 'major catastrophe', and defends Saudis' military ops in Yemen

NEW YORK • The Defence Minister of Saudi Arabia defended his country's military operations in Yemen and said he did not believe the kingdom's tensions with Iran would escalate into a war, according to an interview with The Economist.

Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that war with Iran was "something that we do not foresee at all, and whoever is pushing towards that is somebody who is not in their right mind".

"Because a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region, and it will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world," he added. "For sure we will not allow any such thing."

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen's Foreign Ministry denied Iran's accusation that Saudi warplanes had hit its embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Iran on Thursday said the warplanes had attacked its embassy in Yemen's capital on Wednesday, an accusation that exacerbated tension between the major Shi'ite and Sunni powers in the region.

"The coalition command confirmed that these (Iranian) allegations are false and void, stressing that it does not carry out any operations in the vicinity of the embassy or near it," a statement on state Saudi news agency SPA said late on Thursday.

Residents and witnesses in Sanaa had told Reuters there was no damage to the Iran embassy building.

The interview with Prince Mohammed was carried out with The Economist on Monday, two days after protesters set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Iran.

The protests that culminated in the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Teheran followed the execution of an outspoken Shi'ite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and 46 others in 12 prisons across Saudi Arabia.

Prince Mohammed also defended the kingdom's role in the conflict in Yemen, where its rivalry with Iran has exacerbated a civil war that began last year.

He said the kingdom went to war in Yemen because the "Houthis usurped power in the capital". He described the group as a heavily armed "militia carrying out exercises on my borders".

Meanwhile, four Iranians, including an alleged spy, will stand trial in Saudi Arabia, local media reported yesterday.

The Arab News daily said three were alleged "terrorists", but gave no details.

The Saudi Gazette said they were arrested in 2013 and 2014.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'No danger of war with Iran, says Saudi prince'. Print Edition | Subscribe