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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Egypt's Sisi says army will defend Gulf, after Iranian cleric threatens Saudi Arabia

A conservative Iranian cleric warned that Iran could attack Saudi Arabia if it was unable to export oil because of US sanctions

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi delivers a speech during a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 30 October 2018. Reuters
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi delivers a speech during a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 30 October 2018. Reuters

Days after a conservative Iranian cleric appeared to make threats against Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said his country would come to the defence of Gulf states if they face any direct threats.

Although Mr El Sisi did not specify the source of the threat, his comments came four days after the representative of Iran’s supreme leader in the north-eastern city of Mashad delivered a Friday sermon warning that Iran could attack Saudi Arabia if it was unable to export oil because of US sanctions.

Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, Mashhad's firebrand prayer leader and a hard-line cleric, also said that Iran could prevent the kingdom from shipping through the strategic Hormuz Strait, a key trade route, according to a video of the speech posted on YouTube.

In what appeared to be robust response, Mr El Sisi said that Egypt would protect its Gulf allies.

"We stand by our brothers in the Gulf wholeheartedly and if Gulf security is directly threatened by anyone, the Egyptian people, even before their leadership, will not accept that and will mobilise forces to protect their brethren,” Mr El Sisi was quoted as saying by Egypt’s pro-government Youm7 newspaper on Tuesday.

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science at the UAE University and former adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan on Friday claimed that the conservative Iranian cleric threatened to attack all Gulf countries and not just Saudi Arabia.

Youm7 newspaper also quoted Mr El Sisi as saying in response to a question on US sanctions on Iran: "Instability affects us all and any state that has instability affects all of us."

Mr El Sisi's Egypt is aligned with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, joining their boycott of Qatar last year and opposing Iran's regional influence.

"Our Arab peoples must remain aware and have true consciousness of what the region is going through," Youm7 quoted Mr El Sisi as saying at a youth forum in the Red Sea city of Sharm Al Sheikh.

Mr El Sisi also said Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait "need to be together more and their peoples should support the security and stability of their countries," state news agency Mena reported.

The five countries are among eight Arab nations involved in joint military exercises that began in Egypt on Saturday, in a move that could evolve into a regional pact to counter Iran's influence.

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