Hamas chief, Iran parliament speaker meet in Qatar

Ali Larijani, in Gulf to allay Arab fears, downplays comments by Rouhani adviser on Tehran hegemony in region

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, center, arrives to address a press conference in Doha, Qatar,Wednesday, March 11, 2015.  (Photo credit: AP/Osama Faisal)
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, center, arrives to address a press conference in Doha, Qatar,Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Osama Faisal)

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met Wednesday with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani during the latter’s visit to the Gulf state of Qatar, in a sign of strong ties between Tehran and Gaza.

A website affiliated with the Islamist terror group reported that the two discussed developments concerning the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the Palestinian enclave.

No other details were immediately available.

Iran is a staunch supporter of Hamas, supplying it with rockets and weapons technology used against Israel, though the two have bickered over the Gazan group’s lack of support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Mashaal has been based in Qatar since 2011, when he and the rest of the group’s politburo decamped from Damascus at the start of the Syrian civil war.

Larijani, in Qatar to allay fears over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and role in the region, said that Iran’s assistance to the Iraqi people in confronting the extremist Islamic State group had prevented more countries from being threatened by IS terrorism.

Larijani spoke Wednesday at a press conference in the Qatari capital of Doha after meeting with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani; a day earlier he met Kuwaiti ruler Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Iran shares the world’s largest gas field with Qatar in the Persian Gulf, and has economic relations with Kuwait.

He also downplayed recent comments by Ali Younesi, one of more than a dozen advisers to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Younesi was quoted in Iranian media on Sunday saying Iran and Iraq are united and essentially part of Tehran’s sphere of influence.

Larijani said Iran’s policy is based on peaceful co-existence and Islamic unity.

He said that Tehran was asked by Iraq’s government to help them fight the IS group, which has taken over about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iran and the Shiite militias it supports are leading the battle to dislodge the militant Islamic group from the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Its increasingly hands-on role in Iraq has both left the US and Gulf Arab nations wary as they carry out their own parallel campaign against IS fighters.

Larijani said he spoke with Qatar’s emir about the security situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where a rebel Shiite group has overrun the capital.

Qatar and Kuwait are members of a six-nation bloc of Gulf Arab countries that have accused Iran of interfering in neighboring Yemen. In an apparent reference to regional rival Saudi Arabia, Larijani said the crisis in Yemen should not be handled with bias against certain groups, but through dialogue.

Some media in Saudi Arabia have suggested that Iran sent military personnel to Yemen to help the rebels overthrow the Saudi and US-backed Yemeni president — who has since fled to the southern port city of Aden. Larijani insisted that Iran has no ground forces in Yemen.

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