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Iranian foreign minister calls for Gulf talks as Saudi urges calm

Dubai — Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif has made a peace overture to Gulf countries, lamenting the lack of intra-regional dialog, as Saudi Arabia reiterated the need for calm and de-escalation of tensions in the wake of the killing of a top Iranian commander last week.

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"As the Islamic Republic's foreign minister I would like to send this message to the region, that Tehran will remain the anchor of peace and security and the axis of regional development," Zarif told a forum in Tehran on Tuesday, according to state television.

"What the region needs today more than ever is an all-inclusive, comprehensive, intra-regional dialog."

Calls for calm have emerged from several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, OPEC's biggest and third-largest oil producers respectively, since the killing of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Saudi Arabia reiterated the need for security and stability in the region and the importance of the international community's role to undertake the necessary measures to guarantee both, the country's media minister Turki al-Shabanah said in a statement to the state-run news agency SPA following a cabinet meeting.

WASHINGTON TALKS

Saudi deputy defense minister Khalid bin Salman met with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington on Monday as part of efforts to defuse rising tensions in the region.

"We discussed recent events in the region, and efforts to maintain regional and international peace and stability," Salman said in a tweet, referring to his meeting with Pompeo.

The minister also tweeted that he met with Esper "to discuss mutual challenges faced by our countries, and emphasize the importance of our ongoing military cooperation, which serves regional and international security."

IRAN DENIAL

Separately, Iran's Supreme National Security Council disavowed statements attributed to the body's secretary on Tuesday, in which he said the country was considering 13 scenarios in retaliation for Soleimani's killing.

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani was quoted by Fars news agency as saying the weakest scenario under consideration would be a "nightmare" for the US. News agencies including Fars and Tasnim took down the story after it first appeared in the morning.

"Yesterday, one of the local publications has attributed an interview, which was not done, to the secretary of the supreme council," it said in a statement. "How it has been produced, why and its publication are under investigation and being prosecuted."

Iran's parliament also on Tuesday passed legislation designating the Pentagon and the US military as "terrorist" organizations, state-run IRNA news agency reported.