TEHRAN – Iran on Thursday slammed a decision by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to suspend Syria’s membership, calling the step against its key ally “unfair and unjust.”
“Syria should have been invited to the summit to defend itself,” Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the official IRNA news agency in the holy Muslim city of Mecca.
Earlier Thursday, at the end of an emergency meeting in Mecca, the OIC announced it had suspended Syria’s membership of the 57-nation body, and expressed “deep concern at the massacres and inhuman acts suffered by the Syrian people.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Salehi had attended the two-day OIC summit but were unable to stop the decision.
Salehi said Iran objected to the decision “because this is against the very charter of the organisation.”
The Mecca summit was called by Saudi King Abdullah, whose country is supporting Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
More than 21,000 people have been killed since the Syria conflict began 17 months ago, according to monitoring groups.
Iran, a Shiite state, is Assad’s biggest ally and has pledged him full support in his fight against the armed opposition, although it denies having sent military forces or weapons.
Assad’s ruling elite belongs to the Alawite religious sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Tehran has also initiated a campaign to facilitate talks between the rebels and the government in Syria.
“In our opinion, cooperation is more logical (than suspension),” Salehi said, according to the website of Iran’s state broadcaster.
Instead of suspending Syria, “we should seek a mechanism to exit the Syrian crisis, through which the opposition and the government engage in talks to create favourable conditions (to end the crisis),” he said.
Last week, Iran held a 29-nation conference on Syria attended mostly by ambassadors from like-minded countries, with a couple of foreign ministers. Saudi Arabia was not present.
At the end of August, Iran will host a larger meeting, that of the Non-Aligned Movement, which groups 120 nations considering themselves not within the world’s major power blocs.