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Saudi: Iran nuclear deal possible 'initial step'

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomed Monday a deal reached between world powers and Iran, describing it as a possible initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Tehran's nuclear program.

The statement by the Saudi Cabinet was the first official reaction from the kingdom to Sunday's deal. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's main political power, has previously expressed unease about U.S. outreach to Iran, and Gulf countries generally view any normalizing of ties between Tehran and the West as a direct threat to their own stability.

The Cabinet statement, released by the official Saudi Press Agency, said that if there is "goodwill" then a comprehensive solution would also entail a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, a reference to Israel's presumed arsenal.

"If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear program if that leads to the removal of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, from the Middle East and Arab Gulf," the Saudi government said.

The government added that it hopes the agreement is succeeded by "important steps" that ensure the rights of all countries in the region to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have already issued statements welcoming the nuclear deal.

The Saudi monarchy and other Sunni Muslim rulers in the Gulf are eager to counter Shiite Muslim-led Iran. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of funding Shiite rebellions in the Gulf countries of Yemen and Bahrain and whipping up fervor among the kingdom's Shiite minority. In Syria's civil war, Iran is siding with President Bashar Assad, while Saudi Arabia is backing mostly rebels trying to topple him.

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