By Asma Alsharif
MECCA Aug 16 The Organization of Islamic
Cooperation suspended Syria on Thursday, citing President Bashar
al-Assad's suppression of the Syrian revolt, but there was
little support for direct military involvement in Syria at a
summit of Muslim leaders in Mecca.
Summit host Saudi Arabia has led Arab efforts to isolate
Syria diplomatically and has also backed calls for the Syrian
rebel opposition to be armed, which Foreign Minister Saud
al-Fasial described in February as "an excellent idea".
But 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 summit.
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 57-member body's rebuke is mostly symbolic, but it shows
Syria's isolation - as well as that of its ally Iran - across
much of the Sunni-majority Islamic world.
The summit, which has taken place late on consecutive nights
because of the Ramadan fast, had been billed as a diplomatic
showdown between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, which have
backed different sides in sectarian conflicts in the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi criticised Syria's
suspension as he left Mecca early on Thursday, saying it was
contrary to the organisation's charter.
"Before taking this decision it is necessary to invite the
Syrian government to the meeting so that it can defend itself
and so that participants can listen to its official views," the
official news agency, IRNA, reported him as saying.
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 trying to defuse some of
the region's sectarian tensions. That proposal was adopted by