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Saudi crown prince says country moving to 'moderate' Islam

Mohammed bin Salman says Saudi Arabia will 'end extremism' and promises to restore 'moderate, open' Islam
Mohammed bin Salman (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Tuesday said his country was moving towards a "moderate, open" form of Islam and will defeat extremism, as senior Saudi government officials launched a media offensive in the face an ongoing diplomatic quarrels with Qatar.

Mohammed bin Salman said his country would restore a "moderate, open" Islam, in a kingdom founded by ultra-conservatives and renowned for its repressive rule.

"We are returning to what we were before - a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world," he said at an economic forum in Riyadh.

"We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness.

"We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today," he added. "We will end extremism very soon."

His statements were made hours after Saudi officials unviled $500bn plans for Neom, a "semi-autonomous" enterprise zone near its border with Jordan, which would be open to foreign investment and would fall outside central government rule.

That announcement is linked to a similarly "sharia-free" new tourism resort on the Red Sea, a decision to lift the ban on women driving, and plans a new global body that would vet the use of "hadiths" - the accounts of the life, doings, and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Saudi Arabia plans $500bn 'semi-autonomous' business zone
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Saudi Arabia's apparent shift on social and relgious issues comes as it continues to accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and siding with Iran, Riyadh's greatest regional rival.

Saudi Arabia has also been accused of supporting and funding terrorism and is currently facing legal action in the US over its alleged role in the September 11 attacks.

Bin Salman's reform plans are supported by US President Donald Trump, who has backed Riyadh to rein in "extremists" and tackle the threat of Iran, which the US president has described as a "murderous regime".

Trump recently refused to recertify an international deal that ended Tehran's nuclear weapons programme.

Al-Jubeir backs Trump rejection of Iran deal

The crown prince's comments were delivered as his foreign secretary, Adel al-Jubeir, told an audience in London that Saudi Arabia supported Trump's move to decertify the nuclear deal, a decision that met widespread opposition in the EU, Iran and Russia.

"There is no limit on Iran’s ability to conduct [nuclear] research. In 10 years there's no limit on how much they can enrich. Inspections need to be tighter."

"We saw Iran stepping up aggressive behaviour in the region in Yemen, Syria and Pakistan.

"If Iran are causing all this mischief without a nuclear weapon, what would they do if they had a bomb?

“If Iran acquires nuclear capabilities there are others that will seek nuclear capabilities, and the genie is out of the bottle."

On whether Saudi Arabia was prepared to share influence in Iraq with Iran, he said: "Iraq is an Arab country. Iran is not an Arab country.

"Our interests in Iraq are to have the best ties with them. Iran’s interests are to dominate not to provide good. It’s completely different agendas.

“We support all Iraqis and don’t look at them as sects or ethnicities.”

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