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FILE PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince called the Supreme Leader of Iran "the new Hitler of the Middle East" in an interview with the New York Times published on Thursday, sharply escalating the war of words between the arch-rivals.

The Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shi'ite theocracy Iran back rival sides in wars and political crises throughout the region.

Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defence minister in the U.S.-allied oil giant kingdom, suggested the Islamic Republic's alleged expansion under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to be confronted.

"But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn't work. We don't want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East," the paper quoted him as saying.

(Reporting By Noah Browning; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Reuters