Iran to declare in Mecca opposition to suspending Syria's OIC membership

AFP , Tuesday 14 Aug 2012

Iran opposed the expected suspension of Syria's membership in the OIC as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in Saudi Arabia to attend the Islamic summit

Governor of Mecca Saudi Prince Khaled al-Faisal (R) welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wearing haj dress, upon his arrival at Jeddah airport August 13, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday said his country opposed the expected suspension of Syria's membership in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"I'm openly against the suspension of the membership of any country, any organisation," Salehi told reporters in Jeddah, seat of the 57-strong OIC of which allies Iran and Syria are members.

"By suspending the membership, this does not mean you are moving towards resolving an issue. By this, you are erasing the issue," he said of the 17-month Syria conflict,

"Every country, especially OIC countries must join hands to resolve this issue in such a way that will help the peace security and stability in the region," he added on the eve of an OIC summit in Saudi Arabia.

The secretary general of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, has told AFP that war-ravaged Syria will not be represented in the summit.

But foreign ministers gathered Monday to prepare the meeting were expected to "announce the suspension of Syria's membership as recommended by member states," Ihsanoglu said.

On Monday, he told the meeting that he was "sorry Syria has entered a dark tunnel which has no clear end." adding that this "is the expected outcome of ignoring the demands of the people."

Syria is "living the horrors of a grinding war from which the OIC has repeatedly warned," he said.

Tuesday's summit has been called by Saudi King Abdullah who is pushing to mobilise support for Syrian rebels battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran is Assad's key supporter and has repeatedly warned against intervention in the 17-month conflict that has killed more than 21,000 people, according to monitoring groups.

In a related development, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived on Monday to Mecca to attend the OIC summit in which Tehran and Riyadh have taken opposite sides on Syria.

Ahmadinejad arrived in the Muslim holy city of Medina, in western Saudi Arabia, SPA state news agency said, adding that he visited the mosque and tomb of Islam's Prophet Mohammed.

"The world today is in a very sensitive situation," Ahmadinejad told reporters just before leaving Tehran, according to the Fars news agency.

"Different groups are at work and the enemies are actively pursuing their aims and a great deal of energy is being spent by Islamic governments and groups on arguing and confronting each other," he said.

"I hope that the summit will focus on increasing unity and lowering antagonism," he said.

Tehran, however, accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of arming and financing the Syrian rebels.

Last week, Iran held its own 29-nation conference on Syria attended mostly by ambassadors from like-minded countries, with a couple of foreign ministers. Saudi Arabia was not present.

At the end of this month, Iran is to host another international gathering: a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which groups 120 countries considering themselves independent of any of the world's major power blocs.

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