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Saudi Oil Policy Errors Hurting Across Middle East

Saudi Oil Policy Errors  Hurting Across Middle EastSaudi Oil Policy Errors  Hurting Across Middle East

Falling world oil prices will hurt countries across the Middle East unless Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, takes action to reverse the slump, deputy foreign minister told Reuters.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian described Saudi Arabia's inaction in the face of a six-month slide in oil prices as a strategic mistake and said he still hoped the kingdom would respond.

Oil prices closed on Wednesday at a 5-1/2 year low, registering their second-biggest ever annual decline after OPEC oil exporters chose to maintain oil output despite a global glut and calls from some of the cartel's members - including Iran and Venezuela - to cut production.

"There are several reasons for the drop of the price of oil but Saudi Arabia can take a step to have a productive role in this situation," Abdollahian said.

"If Saudi does not help prevent the decrease in oil price ... this is a serious mistake that will have a negative result on all countries in the region," Abdollahian said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday evening.

Abdollahian said Iran would have more discussions with Saudi Arabia about the oil price, both through oil officials at OPEC and through the foreign ministry. He did not give specific details on when any meeting might take place.

Saudi Arabia said last month that it would not cut output to prop up oil markets even if non-OPEC nations did so. The deputy minister also criticized Saudi military involvement in Bahrain, which has been gripped by tension since 2011 protests led by majority Shiite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger role in running the Sunni-ruled country.

Abdollahian said Bahraini authorities' continued detention of Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman would have "serious consequences" for the government there.

Abdollahian dismissed United States efforts to fight Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, as a ploy to advance US policies in the region.  

"The reality is that the United States is not acting to eliminate Daesh. They are not even interested in weakening Daesh, they are only interested in managing it," he said.

The United States and its allies have carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as part of a US-led campaign against the militant group.

Iran has sent military advisors to help its allies in Baghdad and Damascus battle Islamic State and other extremist fighters. But Abdollahian denied that Iran conducted aerial attacks on Iraqi sites.

  No Serious Action

"On the ground, where the US should take serious action, there are no serious actions taking place. The US is not doing anything," he said, accusing Washington of pursing a contradictory policy toward terrorists. "One day they support Daesh, another day they are against terrorism," he said.

Abdollahian reaffirmed Iran's commitment to Bashar al-Assad, saying the Syrian president must be involved in any political transition aimed at ending more than three years of conflict. He also criticized the latest US sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities, saying they would not have a good impact on Tehran's talks with world powers over its disputed nuclear program.

"The United States must know that these actions make them bear a greater responsibility should the negotiations fail," he said. "If the other side is honest in their actions, then we should expect these talks to reach a desirable conclusion."

Financialtribune.com