Tension between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims is the biggest threat to world security, Iran's foreign minister said in comments published on Monday, accusing Sunni Arab countries of "fanning the flames" of sectarian conflict.
The increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria has drawn in regional powers with Shi'ite Iran backing President Bashar al-Assad and Sunni Gulf Arab states and mainly Sunni Turkey helping the rebels. The conflict threatens to spill over into countries split between Sunnis and Shi'ites such as Lebanon and Iraq.
The sectarian tension is "the most serious security threat not only to the region but to the world at large", Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the BBC.
"I think we need to come to understand that a sectarian divide in the Islamic world is a threat to all of us."
Zarif, a US-educated former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, called for regional powers to come together to try to solve the conflict in Syria. He is the point man of President Hassan Rouhani's bid to ease tensions between Iran and the outside world.
"I think all of us," he said, "regardless of our differences on Syria, we need to work together on the sectarian issue."
But, the BBC said, without naming any countries directly, Zarif accused Sunni Arab leaders of "fanning the flames" of sectarian violence.
"This business of fear-mongering has been a prevalent business," he said. "Nobody should try to fan the flames of sectarian violence. We should reign it in, bring it to a close, try to avoid a conflict that would be detrimental to everybody's security."