Saudi king opens Islamic summit as suspension of Syria proposed
Saudi King Abdullah made a call for Muslim unity Tuesday evening in Mecca at the opening of a summit where Islamic countries were expected to discuss the crisis in Syria, DPA reported.
"Divisions are resulting in the blood of the sons of the Islamic community being spilled," said the Saudi monarch, proposing the establishment of a centre for dialogue among the various schools of Islam.
Among those attending the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) were Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who greeted the Saudi king by kissing his cheeks.
The warm greeting belied the political differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which strongly objects to a recommendation this week by OIC foreign ministers to freeze Syria's membership in the 57-country Muslim bloc.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, appointed by a freely elected constituent assembly after last year's Tunisian revolution, called at the summit for "harsh" action against Syria.
"Now that the region has seen historic revolutions against dictatorships, as Arab peoples and leaders we can no longer accept violations of human rights and attacks on liberties," Marzouki told reporters.
In remarks less likely to please the summit's host government, Marzouki called on Saudi Arabia to extradite Tunisia's former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whom the kingdom has sheltered since he fled a popular revolt in January 2011. Last month, a Tunisian military court sentenced Ben Ali in absentia to life imprisonment for killing demonstrators.
The OIC summit was adjourned to Wednesday, when it is expected to decide on the proposal to suspend Syria.
The move requires a two-thirds majority. So far only Iran has expressed objections.
Suspension from the OIC would further isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November in protest of its use of force demonstrators, in an uprising that has since widened into civil war.