Iran's Rouhani at UN calls on rival Saudi to cease 'divisive policies'

Demonstrators protest against Iran's President Hassan Rouhani outside the UN headquarters in New York on Sept 22, 2016.
Demonstrators protest against Iran's President Hassan Rouhani outside the UN headquarters in New York on Sept 22, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday (Sept 22) called on Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia to "cease and desist" from division if Riyadh was serious about regional peace and security.

"If the Saudi government is serious about its vision for development and regional security, it must cease and desist from divisive policies, spread of hate ideology and trampling upon the rights of neighbours," Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly.

The leading Shi'ite Muslim power, Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia are both fighting Sunni militants of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which controls parts of Syria and Iraq and has supporters and sympathisers worldwide who have carried out bombings and shootings of civilians.

Teheran has sent in troops to confront the movement and other militants in Syria's civil war while Riyadh has been hit by a series of attacks claimed by the militants.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Teheran and Mashhad following Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric.

In his speech, Rouhani criticised the United States for Washington's "lack of compliance" with a landmark nuclear deal reached with six major powers and Iran in 2015 aimed at curbing Teheran's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions.

Iran is pressing the United States to ease banking obstacles to the reopening of trade under the deal.

Major foreign banks are reluctant to get involved because of concerns that they could be caught up in restrictions applying to US banks, which are still banned from doing business with Iran because of core US sanctions that remain in force.

"The lack of compliance with the deal on the part of the United States in the past several months represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith," Rouhani said.