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Saudi king slams Iran, US Jerusalem move at Arab summit

AFP  |  Dhahran (Saudi Arabia) 

Saudi Arabia's Salman today slammed Iran's "blatant interference" in regional affairs and criticised the US over as Arab leaders met in the kingdom for an annual gathering.

The 82-year-old monarch dubbed the meeting the "summit" as he took aim at Washington's decision to transfer its embassy in to the holy city.

Seventeen heads of state from across the Arab world -- minus Syrian -- gathered in the eastern Saudi city of for the 29th summit, which this year comes as world powers face off over and tensions rise between and

The meeting opened only 24 hours after a barrage of strikes launched by the United States, Britain and hit targets they said were linked to in Syria, which was suspended from the league seven years ago.

But Salman avoided any mention of in his address, as a seat marked "Syrian Arab Republic" sat empty in the hall.

Instead the focused on rivalries with long-time foe -- only 160 kilometres (100 miles) across the Gulf from

"We renew our strong condemnation of Iran's terrorist acts in the Arab region and reject its blatant interference in the affairs of Arab countries," the king said.

And despite being a stalwart ally of the United States, the ruler also criticised US Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise as Israel's capital and shift the there.

"We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem," Salman said. "East Jerusalem is an integral part of the " The king said he had named this year's meeting "the Jerusalem summit so that the entire world knows Palestine and its people remain at the heart of Arab concerns".

Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in on Thursday focused heavily on blocking the embassy move, unanimously condemning Trump's decision.

King Salman on Sunday announced a $150 million donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem.

Earlier this month, the monarch reiterated the kingdom's "steadfast stance on the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital".

His comments came just days after his son, powerful Mohammed bin Salman, 32, told reporters during a US tour that also had a "right" to its own state.

The remark suggested increasing rapprochement with Israel, which like Riyadh, sees as its arch rival.

is pushing for a tough, unified stance against at the annual gathering of the 22-member

The two regional titans back opposing sides in a range of hotspots across the Middle East, including and and in Saudi Arabia's southern neighbour

is backing Shiite Huthi rebels that opposes in and on Sunday Salman praised "the UN Security Council's statement denouncing the Iranian-made ballistic missile fire on Saudi cities." Last month the issued a statement condemning Huthi missile attacks on Saudi, but did not name Iran.

In February, vetoed a resolution that would have expressed concern over Iran's failure to block supplies of missiles to Yemen's Huthi rebels.

The summit also comes with and locked in a months-long diplomatic standoff, with Riyadh accusing of supporting Islamist extremists and being too close to Iran.

Tensions have eased slightly in recent months but still only sent its to the Arab League to the summit.

Among the leaders in attendance was Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, who walked the red carpet and was greeted by King Salman. Bashir is wanted by the for five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of genocide and two counts of war crimes.

Summits of the Arab League, established in 1945, rarely result in action. The last time the bloc made a concrete move was in 2011, when it suspended Syria's membership over the Assad regime's role in the war.

Syria's war, the most complex of the region's conflicts, is the main point of contention pitting Riyadh and its allies, who mainly back Sunni rebels, against regime backer Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

states have made massive donations to Syria but have not officially offered asylum to Syrians.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, April 15 2018. 23:45 IST