Saudi cleric calls for "urgent" action to stop Syria bloodshed

MINA, Saudi Arabia Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:03am EDT

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MINA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - The imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims on Friday to take "practical and urgent" steps to stop bloodshed in Syria that has killed some 30,000 people, and urged world states to assume their moral responsibility towards the conflict.

Muslims from around the world on Friday celebrated Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage that attracted some three million people from nearly 190 countries.

This year's haj took place against a backdrop of divisions among Muslims, with Shi'ite Iran and U.S.-allied Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar backing opposing sides in Syria's civil war.

Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate President Bashar al-Assad's government, and has supported the rebels with money and logistics.

"The world should bear responsibility for this prolonged and painful disaster (in Syria) and the responsibility is greater for the Arabs and Muslims who should call on each other to support the oppressed against the oppressor," said Sheik Saleh Mohammed al-Taleb in his sermon during Eid prayers.

"The solution should be practical and urgent because the oppressor becomes even more fierce as the days pass," he added.

Assad's forces announced a conditional Eid ceasefire on Thursday evening, responding to an appeal by international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, though by Friday it had begun to unravel with fighting breaking out in various places.

"The world should take moral and legal responsibility against the massacres and the oppression that the Syrian people are subjected to as well as the continuing violations in Palestine," Taleb, one of the most senior clerics in the kingdom, said.

"The war and destruction should be stopped and the higher interests should be ahead of personal interests in order to stop the spill of the Muslims' blood," he added.

In his haj message to pilgrims on Thursday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that bloodshed in Syria could spill across borders in the Middle East. Iran accuses Turkey and Gulf Arab states of fuelling the Syrian conflict by supporting rebels.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and its ruling monarchy derives much of its legitimacy from its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites.

(Editing by Sami Aboudi and Myra MacDonald)

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