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Analysis: Frustrated Khamenei pushed for Saudi-Iran deal clinched in China

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DUBAI, March 16 (Reuters) – Eager to end its political and economic isolation, Iran had been trying for two years to restore ties with its long-time rival Saudi Arabia, an Arab heavyweight and oil powerhouse.

Last September, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lost patience with the slow pace of bilateral talks and summoned his team to discuss ways to accelerate the process, which led to China’s involvement, two Iranian officials told Reuters.

Beijing’s secret role in the breakthrough announced last week shook up dynamics in the Middle East, where the U.S. was for decades the main mediator, flexing its security and diplomatic muscles.

“The Chinese showed willingness to help both Tehran and Riyadh to narrow the gaps and overcome unresolved issues during the talks in Oman and Iraq,” said an Iranian diplomat involved in the talks.

The deal was struck after a seven-year diplomatic rupture. For Saudi Arabia, a deal could mean improved security. In 2019, the kingdom blamed Iran for attacks on its oil installations that knocked out half of the its supply.

Iran denied involvement. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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