Iran's Ahmadinejad will attend Saudi Arabia summit: report


Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech in Tehran on Feb. 11, 2012.


Atta Kenare

Iranian state press today said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend a special regional summit held in Mecca at the invitation of the Saudi king, reported Reuters

The summit called by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Countries (IOC) will be held in Mecca next week with the stated aim of "unifying the ranks" of Muslims on regional issues, said Agence-France Press

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Iran's state-run IRNA news cited Mohammad Reza Forghani, the director of international affairs in Ahmadinejad's office, as confirming that the Iranian president "will be present at this summit at the invitation of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia," said Reuters.

Tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran are nothing new, but their differing positions on the crisis in Syria — where an uprising against the government appears to have devolved into all-out civil war — has not helped things.

It is considered likely that Syria will be discussed at the IOC meeting, said Reuters.  

That might get a bit sticky. Iran openly supports embattled President Bashar al-Assad, long a regional ally, whereas Saudi Arabia wants to arm the rebel movement trying to overthrow him, reported AFP

Bahrain is another problem child. Iran supports the Shiite-led rebel movement there, while Saudi Arabia backs the ruling Sunni Al Khalifa family. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said the Mecca summit is expected to take on the Bahrain issue, AFP cited Iran's Fars News Agency as reporting.

Riyadh has also accused Tehran of furthering sectarian conflict in the region, said Reuters. The last time Ahmadinejad was in Saudi Arabia was in 2007.