Saudi, UAE make major aid donation to flood-hit rival Iran

Contribution of food and shelter material comes amid US-Iran sanction relief spat over flood recovery efforts.

    Heavy downpours since mid-March have left large swaths of Iran submerged by floodwater [Mehdi Pedramkhoo/Tasnim News Agency]
    Heavy downpours since mid-March have left large swaths of Iran submerged by floodwater [Mehdi Pedramkhoo/Tasnim News Agency]

    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have donated 95 tonnes of aid to their flood-hit regional rival Iran, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

    The aid, which included food and material for shelters, was delivered by the Saudi Red Crescent Authority following authorisation from Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, SPA reported on Thursday.

    The Emirates Red Crescent was also involved in the relief operation, UAE's official WAM news agency said.

    Iran has yet to comment on the aid package.

    Torrential rainfall since March 19 in the Islamic republic of Iran has killed at least 76 people.

    The downpours have left large swaths of the country submerged by floodwater and caused damage estimated to total about $2.5bn so far.

    Iran floods: Sanctions hamper relief efforts

    Tehran has complained that United States sanctions have obstructed relief efforts. Reimposed last year following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal, those sanctions were brokered between Iran and world powers in 2015.

    Tehran accuses US of 'economic terrorism'

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that the US should suspend for one year its punitive measures because of the floods, removing banking sanctions that make it impossible to receive financial donations from outside the country.

    "The heads of the American regime have revealed their true vicious and inhuman nature," Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting shown live on state television.

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    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, has accused the US of waging "economic terrorism" by imposing the sanctions.

    In the midst of the spat, Iran has received aid from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Kuwait, as well as from Germany, France and Japan.

    The move by Saudi Arabia and the UAE came despite the long-standing rivalry with Shia-majority Iran, which is based as much on geostrategic interests as religious differences.

    Facing off across the Gulf, the major oil producers have taken opposing sides for decades in conflicts across the Middle East.

    Riyadh broke off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2016 in protest over the torching of its diplomatic missions by Iranian protesters angry over its execution of a leading Shia scholar.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies