JEDDAH Aug 13 Syria will be suspended from the
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Wednesday for its violent
suppression of a 17-month uprising against President Bashar
al-Assad, a diplomat said on Monday ahead of an emergency OIC
summit in Mecca.
"The resolution regarding the suspension of the Syrian
membership in the OIC is not facing obstacles ... It will be
approved," said the diplomat, speaking on the sidelines of a
preliminary foreign ministers meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
He said the decision was likely to be formally announced at
the end of the second day of the summit, which was called by
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah earlier this month.
Iran, which has backed the government of President Bashar
al-Assad in his response to the uprising, and has accused the
OIC summit hosts Saudi Arabia of assisting the rebels, said it
opposed the resolution.
"By suspending membership, this does not mean that you are
moving toward resolving an issue. This means that you are
erasing the issue. We want to really resolve the issue," Iranian
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to reporters in Jeddah.
His comments pointed towards a diplomatic showdown in Mecca
between some Sunni Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia, and
Shi'ite Muslim Iran - a reflection of heightened sectarian
tensions across the region.
The OIC, a body comprising 56 member states plus the
Palestinian Authority, aims to represent Muslim interests on the
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Mecca on
Monday echoing King Abdullah's call for the summit to increase
Muslim unity, saying before his departure that it was a chance
for his country's viewpoint to be "explained transparently".
However, Iran has also pushed for the summit to address the
continued uprising in Bahrain, where some Saudi troops went last
year at the invitation of the Sunni monarchy to help quell mass
protests by the tiny island state's Shi'ite majority.
King Abdullah's decision to invite Ahmadinejad to the Mecca
summit drew rare criticism in Saudi-owned media on Monday, with
an editorial in the kingdom's edition of pan-Arab daily al-Hayat
saying it would "add only schism and division to the summit".
Saudi Arabia has called for the Syrian people to be "enabled
to protect themselves" if the world powers cannot protect them.
Riyadh is worried that the crisis will further inflame the
sectarian violence in Bahrain as well as other countries with
large Shi'ite communities.
Late on Sunday, Salehi said the resignation of Kofi Annan as
the joint U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria last week did not
spell the end of Annan's six-point plan to end the crisis.
Salehi said Iran was opposed to the imposition of an
internationally enforced no-fly zone over Syria, which Syrian
rebels have called for to curb the ability of Assad's air power
to restrict rebel movements.
"Kofi Annan's plan in Syria is just as alive and I'm not
sure who will come after him but I imagine he will work along
the same suggested guidelines, the six points," he said in
Arabic. "We are against any foreign interference of any kind in
Syria, including a no fly zone."