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Tehran Says Seeking Direct Dialogue With Rival Saudi Arabia

Iranian Shi'ite Muslim worshipers shout slogans against Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel as they attend the weekly Friday prayers at the University of Tehran, October 2015.

Tehran's Foreign Ministry said on December 21 that it is seeking to open a "direct dialogue" with rival Saudi Arabia to resolve regional disputes.

Shi'ite-led Iran and the Sunni Gulf kingdom have taken opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and their rivalry is felt from Bahrain to Lebanon.

Iran supports the Syrian and Iraqi governments and provides both with military advice in the fight against the Islamic State group. Riyadh supports armed rebel groups in Syria.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said that a new Saudi ambassador would soon take office in Tehran. The current Saudi ambassador has been gone for over a year.

Ansari avoided directly criticizing Saudi Arabia's recent bid to create an antiterrorism coalition of 34 Sunni Muslim countries that excludes Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

However, he cautioned that the kingdom "should avoid double standards," and respect "the territorial integrity and national sovereignty" of countries where operations take place, alluding to Saudi Arabia's role of supporting rebel groups in Syria.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax