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World Muslim body to suspend Syria

15 August 2012, 11:00

 Mecca - An emergency summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) began late on Tuesday with a proposal to suspend conflict-wracked Syria, a move strongly opposed by Iran.

A draft final statement obtained by AFP said the summit "approves the suspension of Syria's membership", a measure recommended by a preparatory ministerial meeting held Monday in the western Saudi city of Jeddah.

The move would further isolate President Bashar Assad's embattled regime, after Syria was suspended from the Arab League last year over its brutal crackdown on an Arab Spring-inspired revolt launched in March 2011.

The OIC represents 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, and its suspension of Syria would heap pressure on Assad, who has characterised the uprising as a plot by Western and rival powers to overthrow his Iran-allied regime.

Saudi King Abdullah - who initially proposed the suspension of Syria - is presiding over the meeting held in Mecca, the holiest Islamic city.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose country has openly criticised the push to suspend Syria, is attending the extraordinary meeting and was expected to strongly oppose the move to suspend Damascus.

The draft statement says Syria should be suspended over "the obstinacy of the Syrian authorities in following the military option" to solve the crisis and the failure of a UN-Arab League peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan.

It demands that Assad's regime "immediately end all acts of violence" while defending Syria's "unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity".

Tensions have been simmering for months between Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran as Syria has emerged as another arena for the long-time rivalry between the two regional heavyweights.

Saudi Arabia, which hosts the OIC's headquarters in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, has openly called for arming Syrian rebels.



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