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Macron In Saudi Arabia Amid Regional Tensions


French President Emmanuel Macron speaks in Dubai on November 9.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Saudi Arabia late on November 9 for an unscheduled visit at a time of heightened tensions between Riyadh and its regional rival Tehran.

During a visit to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Macron announced that he would travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss Lebanon and Yemen with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"I believe it's important that we work with Saudi Arabia for the purpose of guaranteeing stability in the region and the fight against terrorism," he said.

The Sunni kingdom and Shi’ite Iran are standing on opposite sides of disputes in Lebanon and Yemen.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced he was stepping down on November 4 while visiting his ally, Saudi Arabia. He cited the "grip" of the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hizballah on the country and also said he feared for his life.

Saudi Arabia has called on its citizens to leave Lebanon, as has the Kuwaiti government.

And on November 6, Saudi Arabia accused Hizballah of firing a ballistic missile from Yemen that was intercepted near the Saudi capital.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince later accused Iran of "direct military aggression" by supplying missiles to Huthi Shi’ite rebels in Yemen.

Tehran has dismissed the allegations as "false and dangerous."

"The missile that was intercepted by Saudi Arabia launched from Yemen, which obviously is an Iranian missile, shows precisely the strength" of Iran’s weapons program, Macron told reporters in Dubai.

The French president said that the firing of the missile showed the need to reach a new agreement on Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

"There are extremely strong concerns about Iran,” he said. “There are negotiations we need to start on Iran's ballistic missiles.”

Macron also said that France still backs the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which has been thrown into doubt after U.S. President Donald Trump last month refused to certify the accord curbing Tehran’s atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief.

"If we were to walk away from [the deal], it would lead to either immediate war or an absence of control which would inevitably lead to a North Korean situation, which I could not accept," Macron said, referring to Pyongyang’s continued development of nuclear weapons.

In an address on October 13, Trump slammed Tehran for what he said are violations of the "spirit" of the agreement between six global powers and Tehran, in part for its continued testing of ballistic missiles and its support for extremists in the Middle East.

He asked Congress to strengthen a U.S. law related to the deal in order to put additional pressure on Tehran by setting up triggers for the imposition of sanctions.

The U.S. president also said he would seek the removal of so-called sunset clauses, which set expiration dates for some restrictions on Iran's nuclear program under the deal.

He threatened to withdraw the United States from the deal if his goals are not met and has repeated that threat in subsequent remarks.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa
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