JEDDAH, Aug 13: Foreign ministers preparing for a summit in Makkah of the Islamic Cooperation Organisation (OIC) on Monday recommended the expulsion of Syria from the 57-nation bloc, its secretary general said, further isolating President Bashar al-Assad.

Asked by reporters whether the foreign ministers had decided to call for a suspension after their meeting in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah to prepare for Tuesday’s summit, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said: “Yes.” The decision had been agreed upon based on consensus with an absolute majority in favour of suspending Syria’s membership, he said, adding that it would be put to heads of state at their summit in Makkah on Tuesday and Wednesday for “final approval”.

The issue has been a bone of contention between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Sources close to the meeting said that only Iran and Algeria were against the recommendation. “We certainly do not agree with the suspension of any OIC member,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said after the meeting.

Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Jeddah on Monday to attend the fourth OIC summit convened by King Abdullah in Makkah to discuss the challenges facing Ummah.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani are part of the president’s entourage. —Agencies

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