Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) officials told Reuters today that foreign ministers rallied around a recommendation suspending Syria's membership from the group over President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent, a move that suggests the motion would easily pass in a formal vote.
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OIC member Iran, a staunch Assad ally, condemned the initiative as an attempt to "erase" the Syrian problem, said Reuters. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making a rare appearance in Saudi Arabia for the group's two-day summit, which kicks off in Mecca tomorrow.
The Muslim interest group represents 56 nations as well as the Palestinian Authority, but relations between many regional members are “a bit complicated,” in the words of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as cited by the Islamic Republic News Agency, according to Bloomberg. Bloomberg also reported that Ahmadinejad said: “Enemies use a significant portion of the energy of Muslim governments and groups for eliminating and damaging each other."
Already in Saudi Arabia, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was more blunt. "I'm openly against the suspension of the membership of any country, any organization," he told reporters today, according to Agence-France Press.
Reuters said the group's binding decision on Syria, where activists say some 20,000 people have died in over a year of violence as Assad seeks to quell a growing uprising against his rule, would have more symbolic than practical weight.
The motion is likely to go to the floor Wednesday, where it would need a two-thirds majority in order to pass — in other words, Iran won't be able to block it on its own, said Reuters.
OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told AFP that Syria will not be attending the group's extraordinary meeting, which was called for by the Saudi king earlier this month.
Ihsanoglu confirmed that the event is expected to "announce the suspension of Syria's membership as recommended by member states," he told AFP.