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US and Saudi reject Iran 'interventions' as Tehran confirms missile test

US defence chief James Mattis has previously described Iran as 'the biggest destabilising force in the Middle East'
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis speaks after his ceremonial swearing-in on 27 January 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC (AFP)

New Pentagon chief James Mattis agreed in a telephone call with his Saudi counterpart to oppose Iranian "interventions" in the Middle East, Saudi state media reported on Wednesday.

Mattis and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed "their full rejection of the suspicious activities and interventions by the Iranian regime and its agents", the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

The two ministers spoke on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia regularly accuses Iran of causing instability in the region, while some of President Donald Trump's picks for cabinet have adopted an anti-Iran stance.

Trump opposed the July 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran that saw the lifting of international sanctions in exchange for guarantees that it will not pursue a nuclear weapons capability.

Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, has described Iran as "the biggest destabilising force in the Middle East".

Mattis, 66, commanded a Marine battalion during the first Gulf war and a division in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

In 2010, he became head of US Central Command which covers the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Missile test

Iran's defence minister said on Wednesday the Islamic Republic had tested a new missile, but claimed the test did not breach Tehran's nuclear accord with world powers or a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.

Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal in 2015, but this is the first during Trump's administration. Trump said in his election campaign that he would stop Iran's missile programme.

"The recent test was in line with our plans and we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defence affairs," Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said, according to Tasnim news agency.

"The test did not violate the nuclear deal or the [UN] resolution 2231," he said.

Nuclear deal

On Sunday, the White House said Trump and King Salman, Prince Mohammed's father, agreed on "rigorously" enforcing the Iran deal.

Also during Tuesday's call, Prince Mohammed said he "looked forward to working together to serve the interests of both countries and the fight against terrorism," SPA said.

It is the latest positive comment issued by the longtime US ally about President Trump, who took office on 20 January.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship, but ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of president Barack Obama.

Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and was tilting towards its rival Iran.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has expressed optimism that the Trump administration will be more engaged in the region, particularly in containing Iran.

Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria, while US forces provide aerial refuelling and intelligence support to Saudi military operations against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

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