Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir arrives for the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 31, 2017. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir accused Iran of controlling five Arab capitals, blasting Tehran for its expansionist policies in the region.

In an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, Al Bashir spoke at length about what he called Iran’s expansionist plans in the region - saying the United States essentially “handed over” Iraq to Iranian control by ousting Saddam Hussain.

“Americans set up a Shiite state in Iraq,” he said, adding that Iran now controls four Arab capitals, including Damascus, Lebanon’s Beirut through Hezbollah and Yemen’s Sana’a through Al Houthi rebels that control the capital. Al Bashir alco accused Iran of spreading Shiism in his country.

Sudan severed diplomatic ties with Iran in January last year in solidarity with Riyadh after the Saudis engaged in a public feud with Tehran. The dispute was triggered when angry crowds attacked Saudi diplomatic missions to protest the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.

Al Bashir depends heavily on Saudi financial aid and has contributed jets and troops to the Saudi-led military coalition battling rebels in Yemen. Al Bashir also accused the Egyptian government of harbouring and backing Sudanese opposition figures fighting his troops, in remarks broadcast on Sunday.

In his first such accusation against Cairo, Al Bashir said that Sudanese opposition figures were “backed by Egyptian intelligence services”.

“We raise this issue every time when we meet Egyptian officials,” said Al Bashir.

Sudanese troops are fighting rebels in three conflict regions — Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

“Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi is a good man and he is my friend, but it’s the Egyptian intelligence that I am accusing,” he said. “I’m not accusing President Sissi. I’m accusing the regime.”

Al Bashir also denied allegations that Khartoum was hosting several members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement banned by Cairo.

“Our policy is not to disturb the peace and security of any country and not to intervene in any internal issues of any country,” he said.

Al Bashir reiterated that Sudan will protest to the United Nations if Egypt does not end its occupation of a border region claimed by his country.

“The Halayeb triangle is Sudanese and we will not make any concessions,” he said.

Sudan will lodge a protest with the UN Security Council if Egypt refuses to settle the dispute, said Al Bashir, calling for “negotiations” with Cairo.

Egypt occupied the sparsely populated 25,000-square-kilometre Halayeb triangle in 1995, during a low point in relations between the two countries.

Sudan has regularly protested about Egypt’s administration of Halayeb, which lies near the Red Sea in a mineral rich border region.

Khartoum says that Halayeb has been part of its sovereign territory since shortly after independence in 1956.

Al Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide related to the conflict in Darfur, also spoke in the interview of Sudan’s ties with Washington.

The United States has blacklisted Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993 and imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 over its alleged support for Islamist groups.

“There is a five-point road map between us and the United States. The first point, terrorism, has been completed 100 per cent and the Americans have acknowledged that,” said Al Bashir.

He said he now expected the US Congress to remove Sudan from the blacklist.

Before he left office, former US president Barack Obama announced in a letter to Congress that he was easing economic sanctions against Khartoum.