Manouchehr Mottaki and Ali Akbar Salehi. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Saudi experts on Sunday praised a statement by Iran's newly appointed Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi who said that Iran's top foreign policy priority is to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia.

"It is a very logical and beautiful statement on paper," said Jamal Khashogshi, a prominent Saudi writer.

"I'm sure it will be welcomed by Saudi officials, but previous experiences with Iran raise certain doubts," he told Gulf News.

During a ceremony held at the Foreign Ministry on Saturday in which Salehi was officially introduced as Iran's acting Foreign Minister, he announced that given the current situation in the region and the international arena, efforts to promote relations with neighbouring countries must be prioritised.

Salehi named Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in particular, in his call for the promotion of political cooperation.

Special relationship

"This country [Saudi Arabia] deserves to have a special political relationship with Iran," he was quoted as saying.

"Iran and Saudi Arabia are two influential countries in the Muslim world and the region that can resolve many of the problems of the region and the Muslim world."

The Saudi analyst said the kingdom, too, was keen to have good bilateral relations with Iran.

He, however, added that tension that had arisen had been the "result of Iran's interference in Iraqi, Lebanese and Yemeni [internal] affairs, and this annoyed the kingdom." Meanwhile, Salehi's predecessor told a local news agency that he had not been aware of plans fire him when he left on a mission to west Africa. Manouchehr Mottaki told Mehr news agency, in a report issued yesterday, that he was "never informed" about the dismissal while on his trip.

Undiplomatic dismissal

Mottaki described his dismissal during the mission as "undiplomatic and offensive."

On Saturday, Mohammad Reza Rahim, Iran's first vice-president, claimed during a farewell ceremony for Mottaki that he knew he was going to be replaced ahead of his Africa trip.

Mottaki did not attend the ceremony and said yesterday that he was not informed about it. He called the process "ridiculous."

He said he met Ahmadinejad before leaving for Africa but nobody told him of his pending dismissal.

There was even more criticism of Ahmadinejad in parliament yesterday, after an outcry last week.

Ali Larijani, parliament speaker and a close ally of Mottaki, said during a speech in an open session of parliament that he appreciated Mottaki's service.

"The right way was that the change should have happened with prudence and... dignity and not during the visit," Larijani said.

Ali Mutahar, one of the lawmakers opposed to Ahmadinejad, yesterday said Mottaki learnt about his dismissal from Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

"[Ahmadinejad] did not have such a right. I hope he will have [a] convincing response [to] this," he said.

— With inputs from AP