Arab leaders gather to unify ranks in face of conflict, wars

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman opened a summit of Arab leaders on Sunday by condemning an old foe, Iran, without making any reference to missile strikes by Western powers on Syrian government targets over a suspected gas attack a week ago.

The 82-year-old monarch dubbed the Arab League meet the "Jerusalem summit" as he took aim at Washington's decision to recognise the disputed city as the capital of Israel and transfer the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv. "East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian territories".

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

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the embassy is scheduled for mid-May to coincide with Israel's anniversary of its proclamation of independence on May 14, 1948.

"The summit condemned Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, either through igniting sectarian strife or planting militias in Arab countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, and harboring al Qaeda terrorists", Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference.

Reuters did not mention his comment on the embassy in its coverage of the king's speech.

Sunday's meeting will be the first Arab League summit since Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar 10 months ago and the first since President Donald Trump announced his decision to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in Riyadh on Thursday focused heavily on blocking the move, unanimously condemning the decision by US President Donald Trump.

King Abdullah II of Jordan said the Arab World has the duty to support the Palestinians, which he called "the callers for peace", to get their legal rights in establishing the state.

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Sunday's summit comes three months after the US officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, triggering world outcry.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have for decades been locked in a struggle for regional supremacy that is now being played out in proxy wars in several countries, including Yemen and Syria.

"We urge the worldwide community to sanction Iran and forbid it to back Houthi terrorists and provide them missiles", the statement said.

In February, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have expressed concern over Iran's failure to block supplies of missiles to Yemen's Houthis.

The stand-off between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt is also not expected to feature.

Moreover, Qassemi called on the Arab League member states to take necessary measures to build confidence and promote stability in the region.

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.

The Gulf states have donated large amounts of money to help refugees from the country but have not officially offered them asylum.

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