Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned Iraq on Sunday against sectarian extremism after two weeks of protests by Sunni Muslims against the Shiite-backed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Nationwide street demonstrations in Iraq's Sunni heartland have strained the Arab state's fragile political balance and renewed fears of intensified sectarian strife.
“We are convinced that Iraq will not stabilize until it starts handling issues without sectarian extremism... Until these issues are addressed, we don't think there will ever be stability in Iraq, which pains us,” Prince al-Faisal told a news conference in Riyadh.
Iraq's Arab majority is mostly Shi'ite but the country was dominated by Sunnis under former strongman Saddam Hussein and much of the fighting since he was deposed has fallen along sectarian lines.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is locked in a struggle for regional influence with fellow OPEC-member Iran, backing opposing sides in Syria and Lebanon, where Shi'ite parties are allied to Tehran.
Riyadh also accuses Tehran of fomenting unrest in Bahrain and Yemen, and of instigating protests among Saudi Arabia's own Shi'ite minority, charges Iran denies.