MINA, 21 December 2007 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held talks here yesterday with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on major regional and international issues as well as ways of strengthening bilateral ties, the Saudi Press Agency said.
Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian president to perform Haj as guest of a Saudi king, arrived in the Kingdom on Monday accompanied by top aides. Nearly three million pilgrims from different parts of the Islamic world including several thousands from Iran performed Haj this year.
“In my discussion with King Abdullah we discussed different ways to consolidate the brotherly relations among Muslim nations,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the Iranian media covering his trip. He described Tehran’s relations with Riyadh as “friendly,” adding: “The message of my presence here is boosting ties among Islamic nations.”
Iranian pilgrims in the Kingdom expressed their hope that Ahmadinejad’s participation in the pilgrimage would help repair ties between the Islamic republic and its Arab neighbors.
“Ahmadinejad’s Haj, since it comes at the invitation of the Saudi king, shows that Muslim nations are supporting one another in times of need,” an Iranian teacher said. “Having ties with big Arab nations is a sign of unity among Muslims, and the West will understand that it cannot divide Shiites and Sunnis,” said Hossein, a trader from Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Earlier this month, Ahmadinejad attended a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Qatar, becoming the first Iranian president to attend a GCC summit. Addressing the summit, the president tried to allay fears of his Gulf neighbors and presented a 12-point program to promote relations between Tehran and the six-member GCC.
In his speech at the summit, Ahmadinejad offered to sign a security pact with the GCC that groups Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
“I personally hope that President Ahmadinejad will be able to successfully implement his plans and improve Iran’s international situation (as a result of the pilgrimage),” said university student Ali Rahmati. Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005.