Speaking in an interview aired on Iraq’s Al-Furat Television on Tuesday, Solagh said he would be forced to lay bare more facts if Saudi Arabia continued its interference, stressing on what he called human-rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s treatment of six million Shias as third-class citizens.
Aljazeera said Solagh declined to comment in the interview on the apology offered over the weekend by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari to his Saudi counterpart over his previous criticism, saying he would discuss the matter with the Iraqi cabinet.
In that attack, the Iraqi interior minister hit out at Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, dismissing him as “some bedouin riding a camel” and the kingdom as a dictatorship of one family.
Solagh was responding to comments made by al-Faisal during a trip to the United States last month, warning of the influence of non-Arab, Shia Iran in Iraq and a slide into civil war between Sunnis and Shias.
Call for democracy
Reuters quoted Solagh as saying in the interview: “(The Saudis should) create a democratic system and give freedoms, and not grant rights in just dribs and drabs, saying that maybe a woman can drive a car but she can only work within limits in the workplace”
“We call for democracy and freedom in all the Arab nation,” the outspoken Shia minister said.
Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal
Jabor repeated his earlier comments, saying: “We were surprised by this unjustified attack … which they made instead of acting to solve the problem of the Shias in Saudi Arabia who are considered second class citizens”.
He also referred to Saudi Arabia’s small Ismaili Shia community as receiving “fourth class” treatment. Most of Saudi Arabia’s Shias lives in the oil-rich Eastern Province, close to Iraq.
Shias are believed to make up around 10% of Saudi Arabia’s native population of 16 million and complain of being marginalised by a government allied to radical Sunni scholars who consider Shia Islam a heresy.
Solagh’s comments were bound to further rattle Saudi Arabia which has undertaken limited reforms of its absolute monarchy after US calls for democracy and women’s rights.
Meanwhile, Iran on Tuesday shrugged off Saudi accusations that it was interfering in Iraq.
“The collective wish of countries in the region is for a solution in Iraq. We support these activities and efforts by Iraq’s neighbours in this regard,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking through a translator, said in Kuwait.