Saudi Arabia urged Iran on Saturday to allow a daughter of Osama bin Laden, who fled house arrest and sought refuge in the Saudi embassy in Tehran, to leave the country if she wishes.
Iman bin Laden and five siblings had been held in Tehran since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported last month. Iman, 17, escaped during a rare trip outside in November and made her way to the embassy, the paper said.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference in Riyadh that Iman should be allowed to leave Iran.
We consider this to be a purely humanitarian issue and we are in talks with the Iranian government to treat it as such and leave the choice of leaving to the girl, he said.
Asharq al-Awsat, owned by a cousin of Prince Saud, has reported that the Saudi embassy has issued Iman with a temporary travel permit to allow her to return to Saudi Arabia.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and non-Arab Iran have been marked by regional rivalry and mutual mistrust due mainly to sectarian tensions in the region between Sunnis and Shi'ites -- Islam's two main factions -- and more recently over Tehran's nuclear plans.
Iman's father, Osama bin Laden, was born into a wealthy Saudi family but had his nationality revoked. The al Qaeda head is believed to be hiding in the mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
(Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)