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World Muslim leaders mull expelling Syria

Foreign ministers who held a preparatory meeting Monday recommended the suspension of Syria's membership.

Muslim leaders were Tuesday to mull proposals to expel war-hit Syria from the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,piling pressure on Damascus to halt its crackdown on the opposition.

The OIC represents 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide and that it is holding a meeting tonight in Mecca,the holiest Islamic city,is of particular significance the 26th of the

holy month of Ramadan is the night when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed,according to Muslim tradition.

Foreign ministers who held a preparatory meeting Monday recommended the suspension of Syria’s membership,the OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,whose country has openly criticised the push to suspend Syria,is attending the extraordinary meeting.

It was proposed by Saudi King Abdullah,who is pushing to mobilise support for the Syrian rebels.

Tensions had been simmering for months between Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran,as both long-standing regional rivals had taken opposite stances on the uprising in Syria,which topped the summit’s agenda.

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The United States said that Rashad Hussain,its special envoy to the OIC,would take also part in the Mecca summit as an observer and hold meetings with other delegates

on the sidelines.

His attendance “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to working with our partners in the international community to support the aspirations of the Syrian people and bring additional pressure to bear on the Assad regime,” a State Department statement said Monday.

Iran is the Syrian regime’s biggest regional ally and has pledged its full support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad in his fight to remain in power,though it denies

providing him with soldiers or arms.

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Earlier this month,ISNA news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying that “retired” members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and army are among 48 Iranians taken hostage by rebels in Syria.

Tehran,however,accuses Saudi Arabia,Qatar and Turkey of arming and financing the mainly Sunni Syrian rebels against Assad,who hails from the Alawite minority an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.

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

Salehi Monday assured reporters that “we are on track for increasing and improving the level of relations with Saudi Arabia.”

However,the Iranian minister criticised the move to suspend Syria’s membership of the OIC.

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“We certainly do not agree with the suspension of any OIC member,” Salehi said after the meeting.

“The suspension of its membership does not really resolve the issue and is not in line with the OIC charter,” he said. “We have to look for other ways,means and mechanisms for resolving conflicts and crises.”

First published on: 14-08-2012 at 17:18 IST
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