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Foreign Affairs

British paper: Iran looks better than Saudi Arabia

London, Despite some differences between Iran and the West as regard foreign policy, Iran looks better than Saudi Arabia, the reporter of the British newspaper 'The Times' said.

'On many issues Iran looks better. By the standards of the region, its political system is a paragon of pluralism. Among Muslim countries, only Tunisia, Turkey and Lebanon offer anything like the same levels of participation and contestability,' Lucas said.

'Saudi Arabia is only now allowing women to drive. In Iran they can hold high office, get a first-rate education and live independently,' he added.

Elaborating on minority rights, he said 'Iran has blackspots, but the secretary of the National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, is an Arab. Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, is half-Azeri. The Saudi record is of ruthless repression.'

'It is a similar story on religious issues. Iran has hundreds of Christian churches and the biggest Jewish population of any Muslim country besides Turkey. You can go to a synagogue in Tehran. In Saudi Arabia, where all non-Muslim religious observance is banned, you cannot even buy a Bible, let alone go to church, he reiterated.

'The presence of its fearsome proxy, the Hezbollah militia, on Israel's Lebanese and now Syrian borders is in Iranian eyes the best deterrent against any future American or Israeli attack.'

'Yet the experience of recent years is that Iran is at least open to negotiations. It has stuck to the nuclear deal despite the Trump administration's withdrawal. That could have been the basis for discussions about other issues too.'

'Moreover, Saudi foreign policy is equally problematic. It has brutally bungled the war in Yemen. Though the regime has good backstage relations with Israel, it is Saudi private and public money that supports the most toxic Wahhabi form of Islam in other countries, financing Islamic schools and teaching materials that preach violent hostility towards other religions and cultures, including non-mainstream versions of Islam.'

Referring to European countries efforts to set up financial mechanisms to maintain economic cooperation with Iran, he said 'such efforts deserve our support too', Lucas said.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency - IRNA

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