MAKKAH - Saudi Arabian ruler and custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has called upon the Muslim Ummah to stand united in the face of myriad challenges it faces.

In his inaugural speech at the two-day extraordinary Islamic Solidarity Summit here, King Abdullah said the Muslim Ummah was going through a ‘period of seditions and divisions’. He said there was bloodshed in many parts of the Muslim world during Ramadan. The solution to these conflicts is unity, tolerance, solidarity and moderation, the King said. “We have to unite against any attempts to divide us. We can defeat injustice only when we are just. We can counter extremism only when we are moderate,” the King said.

 “Sedition is worse than killing,” he said at the historic summit of the 57 Muslim countries. “We hope that Almighty Allah helps us find the causes that have made our Ummah weaker and divided, an issue which has reflected negatively on the Ummah,” the King said.

King Abdullah called upon the leaders to rise to the occasion and shoulder their responsibilities. “We should all support what is right,” he said.

The King also proposed setting up a dialogue centre for Islamic schools of thought. The centre would be based in Riyadh and its members drawn from the OIC states.

The King’s role of enhancing cooperation and creating harmony between all Arab and Islamic countries stems from the Kingdom’s ethical and religious obligation toward the Ummah.

Meanwhile, OIC was poised Wednesday to suspend conflict-wracked Syria, despite opposition from Iran.

An emergency summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) opened late Tuesday with the proposal put forward by a preparatory meeting of foreign ministers, a symbolic attempt to pile pressure on Damascus over its deadly crackdown on a 17-month uprising.

A draft final statement obtained by AFP said the summit “approves the suspension of Syria’s membership.” It is expected to be endorsed when the leaders reconvene late Wednesday evening.

The move by the OIC, which represents 1.5 million Muslims worldwide, is aimed at further isolating Assad’s embattled regime but its effect is seen as being largely symbolic.

Saudi King Abdullah has presided over the meeting, attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose country has openly criticised the push to suspend Syria.

The draft statement says Syria should be suspended over “the obstinacy of the Syrian authorities in following the military option” to solve the crisis and the failure of a UN-Arab League peace plan brokered by Kofi Annan. It demands that Assad’s regime “immediately end all acts of violence” without calling for the president to step down, while defending Syria’s “unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

Tensions have been simmering for months between Saudi Arabia and Iran as Syria has emerged as another arena for the longtime rivalry between the two regional heavyweights.

Despite the opposed stands, Iran’s president avoided mention of the Syrian conflict in a speech on Tuesday night as did Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in his opening speech, indicating an accommodation between the region’s superpowers.

“There has been a clear change in the Iranian position towards Syria,” according to a diplomat at the Makkah summit.

Algeria, Pakistan and Kazakhstan called for the final statement of the summit, to which Damascus was not invited, also pin blame on the armed opposition for the bloodshed in Syria.

And Egypt’s President Muhammad Mursi proposed the formation of a committee grouping his country with key players Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to try to find a settlement to the Syrian conflict, a delegate said.

In addition to the Syrian crisis, the OIC delegates were also to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, the violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar and unrest in Mali.

About 40 heads of government from the Arab world, Africa and Asia took part in the summit.