Islamic nations disagree at meeting on Saudi-Iran crisis

AP News
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Posted: Jan 21, 2016 3:36 PM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The world's largest body of Islamic nations strongly denounced Iran on Thursday, fully siding with Saudi Arabia over its diplomatic fallout with its regional Shiite rival.

The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation released a final communique condemning Iran following an emergency meeting attended by 24 foreign ministers from across the Muslim world, including Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia, to discuss the worsening relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi represented Tehran at the meeting, which was held at the OIC's Saudi-based headquarters.

Araqchi is the first Iranian official to visit the kingdom since Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran after a mob ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Jan. 2 and its consulate in another Iranian city. The crowd in Iran was protesting the execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.

The OIC said in its statement that it condemned the aggression against the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, and "rejects and condemns Iran's inflammatory statements" on the execution on the cleric.

Iran's top leaders have repeatedly spoken out against the attacks on the Saudi Embassy, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani calling it "unjustifiable," though leaders in Tehran also strongly criticized Saudi Arabia for executing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Some 40 people were arrested in Iran for taking part in the embassy's ransacking.

The OIC statement, which was not endorsed by Iran or Lebanon, added that the organization "denounces Iran's interference in the internal affairs of its member-states," specifically mentioning Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have waged a bitter struggle for regional power for years. They back opposing sides of civil wars in Yemen and in Syria.

Pakistan earlier this week offered to host talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to resolve their disputes.

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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.