ISLAMABAD - Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of harboring what it said was "the board of directors of al-Qaida" and rejected charges Riyadh was behind last week's suicide car bombing that killed against 27 personnel of the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir made the remarks Monday during a visit to Iran's neighbor Pakistan.
Iranian authorities allege Wednesday's deadly bombing against IRGCin the border province of Sistan-Balochistan was "planned and carried out from inside Pakistan" with support of the intelligence agencies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Iran also threatened to take unilateral military punitive action against the perpetrators if Pakistan failed to do so. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Pakistan's ambassador on Sunday to protest the attack.
"Iran has been harboring virtually the board of directors of al-Qaida, including Osama bin Laden's son since the events of 9/11," Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir told a joint news conference in Islamabad along with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He declared Iran as "the world's chief sponsor of terrorism."
Al-Jubeir added: "Iran has been facilitating the transport of terrorists across its territory and so the last country in the world to accuse others of supporting terrorism is Iran."
Osama Bin Laden was accused of plotting the September 2001 attacks on the U.S., commonly referred to as 9/11, from Afghanistan before fleeing to neighbouring Pakistan. The U.S. military in 2011 tracked and killed the al-Qaida chief in a unilateral operation against his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbotabad.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, for his part, told reporters that he spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Jawad Zarif, on Sunday,assuring him of Pakistan's cooperation in investigating last week's terrorist attack.
"If they have evidence they will share with us and we will be helpful. We have been dealing with these issues in the past we have cooperated with each other to overcome these difficulties and we will do so in the future as well," Qureshi noted. He urged Iranian leaders to desist from issuing threatening statements against Pakistan. "Iran is our neighbor and we would not want to cause any problem for them. We respect their sovereignty and their territorial integrity and I am sure they respect ours," Qureshi cautioned.
Saudi Minister Al-Jubeir said that by blaming outsiders for violent acts on its territory, Tehran was trying to to deflect attention from domestic pressure and problems facing the Iranian regime. He did not elaborate.
Iran itself has been implicated in terrorist attacks in his country, in South America and Europe, he added. Al-Jubeir again accused Tehran of establishing groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen for promoting terrorist activities.
Crown Prince's Pakistan Visit
Al-Jubeir is in Pakistan as part of a big delegation, which arrived in Pakistan on Sunday on a two-day state visit under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two countries signed unprecedented bilateral investment projects worth $20 billions in oil refining, petrochemicals, energy and other sectors.
The crown prince, also known as MBS, at the request of his Pakistani host, Prime Minister Imran Khan, also ordered release of more than 2,100 of about 3,000 Pakistanis being detained in Saudi jails for various crimes. He also assured Khan of addressing complaints and ensuring better treatment of about 2.5 million Pakistanis working in the Saudi Kingdom mostly as laborers.
Pakistan has always walked a tightrope while trying to maintain a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Predominantly Sunni Pakistan has deep religious, cultural, political and defense ties to Saudi Arabia, but it shares a porous border with Shi'ite Iran, stretching over 900 kilometers. A fifth of Pakistan's more than 200 million residents are Shiite Muslims who maintain close cultural and religious ties with the Iranian nation.
Iranian leaders have long alleged that anti-Iran Sunni-militants use the Pakistani province of Baluchistan for planning cross-border attacks. Islamabad in the past has arrested fugitive Iranian militants and handed them over to Tehran. Recently, the Iranian government acknowledged Pakistani forces rescued five of nearly a dozen border forces who were kidnapped by militants during a raid on one of the Iranian border outposts.