Rafsanjani urges help for Iraq against "occupation"
Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani called the Islamic world Wednesday to help Iraqis fend off the
"unofficial US colonization" of their country.
Rafsanjani told an International Islamic Conference on Interfaith Dialogue that a long-term security agreement between Washington and Baghdad would not be signed.
"We should be aware of the danger the Iraqi people face and help them against permanent occupation," said Rafsanjani, who is currently head of Iran's powerful Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts.
"In order to have a dialogue with other religions, we need to start talking among ourselves," he said. "The call needs to be directed at ourselves first of all, and all the sects need to agree on shared points."
The Mecca gathering, sponsored by the Muslim World League, aims at unifying Muslim views before an interfaith dialogue that Saudi King Abdullah wants to launch with Christian and Jewish religious figures.
In a speech opening the three-day conference, the monarch criticized extremists, saying they posed a challenge to Muslims by their "narrow-mindedness" and "ignorance."
Abdullah told 500 Muslim religious scholars, intellectuals and media figures they should let the world know that Muslims were a "voice of justice and human and moral values."
The Islamic world has to deal with major challenges created by Muslims advocating extremism and intolerance, which are anathema to the spirit of Islam, the king said.
The Mecca meeting will also discuss the future of inter-faith dialogue against the background of what Muslims perceive as a widespread Islamophobia in the west.
Saudi Arabia has been battling al-Qaeda militants, who have launched a campaign of violence in the kingdom.
The country, which is the birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest places, adheres to a hardline Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam.
Non-Muslims living in Saudi Arabia are forbidden to build public houses of worship. But the Saudi king, seen as a reformer, has taken steps to loosen strict religious and social customs.
His landmark visit to the Vatican in 2007 and call for interfaith dialogue are seen as part of this reform drive. The Vatican runs its own interfaith dialogue with Muslim clerics, dpa reported.