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World Islamic body backs Saudi stance in Iran spat

JEDDAH (Reuters) - The world’s largest Muslim body has backed Saudi Arabia in its weeks-long diplomatic spat with Iran, accusing Tehran of backing terrorism and meddling in other countries’ affairs.

Supporters of the Houthi movement protest against the execution of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration outside the Saudi embassy in Sanaa, Yemen January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Tehran rejected the statement by The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as “unacceptable” on Friday, and in turn accused it of supporting “Saudi state terrorism”.

The OIC, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, gathered for an exceptional meeting called by Riyadh over the storming of its embassy and consulate by Iranian protesters on Jan. 2.

The crisis erupted when Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia executed Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr earlier that day, triggering outrage among Shi’ites across the region and deepening the political and sectarian rift between the kingdom and the Islamic republic.

In its final statement on Thursday evening, the OIC condemned the attacks on Saudi missions and criticised “inflammatory Iranian statements on the implementation of court rulings against a number of perpetrators of terrorist crimes in Saudi Arabia”.

“(The OIC) condemns Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of countries in the region and other countries, including members (Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Somalia) and the continuation of its support for terrorism,” the body added.

Riyadh cut its diplomatic ties with Tehran in response. Other Gulf countries took varying measures to downgrade ties with Iran.

Iran is a member of the OIC and its Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi attended the meeting.

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the OIC statement, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported on Friday.

“The statement has turned a blind eye to the realities of Saudi embassy event and Iranian government’s speedy measures in providing security .... restoring calm and detaining those responsible for the event,” said Hossein Jaberi Ansari.

“The goal of such meetings is an attempt to provide coverage to the policies of discord, war-mongering and support for state terrorism of Saudi Arabia.”

Analysts say the dispute may dampen chances for peace talks to end wars in Yemen and Syria, where the two regional archrivals back opposing sides.

Reporting by Noah Browning and Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Roche