DUBAI : Tension between Sunnis and Shias is the biggest threat to world security, Iran's foreign minister said in comments published on Monday, accusing Sunni Arab countries of "fanning the flames" of sectarian conflict.

The increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria has drawn in regional powers with Iran backing President Bashar al-Assad and Gulf Arab states and mainly Turkey helping the rebels. The conflict threatens to spill over into countries split between Sunnis and Shias such as Lebanon and Iraq.

The sectarian tension is "the most serious security threat not only to the region but to the world at large", Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the BBC. "I think we need to come to understand that a sectarian divide in the Islamic world is a threat to all of us."

Zarif, a US-educated former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, called for regional powers to come together to try to solve the conflict in Syria. He is the point man of President Hassan Rouhani's bid to ease tensions between Iran and the outside world.

"I think all of us," he said, "regardless of our differences on Syria, we need to work together on the sectarian issue."