TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's president has lashed out at Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen's conflict with Shi'ite rebels, saying it should try to foster peace rather than use weapons against fellow Muslims.
The comments by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad were the strongest criticism yet by predominantly Shi'ite Muslim Iran of mainly Sunni Saudi Arabia over Riyadh's involvement in the Yemen conflict.
"We were expecting that Saudi Arabian officials act like a mentor and make peace between brothers, not that they themselves enter the war and use bombs ... and machineguns against Muslims," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.
"If only a small part of the weapons of Saudi Arabia were used in favour of Gaza and against the Zionist regime (Israel), today there would be no sign of the Zionist regime in the region," he said on state television.
Ahmadinejad said Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil producer and a U.S. ally, used crude oil income to buy weapons which are then used to "kill brothers" and create sedition.
Ahmadinejad, who often rails against the West, also said he believed the United States, Britain and Israel were behind the Yemen conflict, aiming to "set the whole region on fire" in a bid to dominate the Middle East.
"I hope that my Yemeni brothers sit down and talk and negotiate and solve the problems," he said.
Yemen, the Arab world's poorest nation, came to the foreground of U.S.-led efforts to battle militancy after a Yemen-based wing of Al-Qaeda said it was behind a failed December 25 plot to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner.
The government of veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh is also embroiled in a war with rebels of the Shi'ite Zaidi sect in northern provinces, a conflict that drew in Saudi Arabia after a cross-border rebel raid in November.
Yemen has accused clerics in Iran of backing the rebels and Iranian media have attacked Saudi Arabia for joining the war against the rebels.