By Asma Alsharif
MECCA Aug 16 The Organisation of Islamic
Cooperation suspended Syria's membership early on Thursday at a
summit of Muslim leaders in Mecca, citing President Bashar
al-Assad's violent suppression of the Syrian revolt.
"The conference decides to suspend the Syrian Arab Republic
membership in the OIC and all its subsidiary organs, specialised
and affiliated institutions," the closing statement said.
The move had been approved on Monday at a preliminary
meeting of OIC foreign ministers and was agreed on the summit's
second night despite opposition from Iran.
Saudi Arabia, the summit's host, has led Arab efforts to
isolate Syria diplomatically and has backed calls for the Syrian
rebel opposition to be armed, which Foreign Minister Saud
al-Fasial described in February as "an excellent idea."
However, speaking to reporters after the summit, OIC
Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said he "did not see much
support for external military intervention" in Syria during the
He described the decision to suspend Syrian membership as "a
message to the international community ... that the Islamic
community stands with a politically peaceful solution and does
not want any more bloodshed."
The summit, which has taken place late on consecutive nights
because of the Ramadan fast, had been billed as a diplomatic
showdown between Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran,
which have backed different sides in sectarian conflicts in the
However, Saudi King Abdullah tried to conciliate Iran at the
summit opening by placing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at his
side to welcome Muslim leaders in a gesture Saudi political
analysts said was aimed at putting old grievances aside in the
quest for a resolution to the Syrian crisis.
He also suggested founding a centre for dialogue between
Islam's sects, another move aimed at defusing some of the
region's sectarian tensions. That proposal was adopted by the
In his first published comments since the summit opened,
Ahmadinejad appeared to rebuff the Saudi move.
On Iran's Mehr news agency on Wednesday he said countries
which wanted the Syrian crisis solved must come up with a plan
of action to do so.
"But unfortunately some of our brothers and friends have not
acted well in this area and instead of inviting the conflicting
parties for talks and understanding, they are busy sending
weapons into the country and encouraging slaughter," he added.
Syria and Iran have accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey
of arming the rebels.