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Saudi foreign minister criticizes Iran at Gulf Arab summit

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Gulf Arab leaders meeting in Saudi Arabia on Thursday reiterated their calls for a political solution to the wars in Yemen and Syria, but the kingdom's foreign minister went a step further and criticized Iran's role in those conflicts.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after the two-day summit in Riyadh concluded that "Iran is playing a negative role in most regional issues."

He added that he met only for "a few minutes" with his Iranian counterpart in Vienna last month on the sidelines of a meeting to discuss ways to end the nearly five-year Syrian war, in which Saudi Arabia and Iran are backing opposite sides of the conflict.

Riyadh is also hosting a Syrian opposition summit that gathered more than 100 factions, including rebel groups, in an effort to unite their ranks ahead of proposed peace talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.

Al-Jubeir said that the kingdom hopes for better relations with Iran, but added the Islamic Republic's policies have hindered diplomatic ties.

His comments point to the struggle for regional supremacy between the Sunni kingdom and the Shiite republic that has played out in conflicts in Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military intervention against Shiite rebels who are backed by Iran.

However, the official statement from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council over the meeting refrained from directly criticizing Iran, but instead condemned terrorism and called on Yemen's warring sides to reach a desirable political solution. The GCC also called for a political transitional period in Syria that eventually leads to free and fair multiparty elections.

Leaders from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and a senior royal official from Oman took part in the summit, which was held in King Salman's Diraya palace.

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