Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid leaves for Arab Summit in Saudi Arabia

Keep your eye on the Arab summit

Saudi Arabia's King Salman slammed Iran's "blatant interference" in regional affairs as Arab leaders met in the kingdom on Sunday for an annual summit.

The gathering comes as America, Britain and France yesterday launched a coordinated airstrike in Syria to punish the regime for a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 70 people.

Opening the 29th Arab League summit, the Saudi King also criticised the U.S. decision to transfer its embassy in Israel to Occupied Jerusalem and described "terrorism" as the biggest challenge facing Arab leaders.

The 29th Arab Summit - Al-Quds Summit - has strongly condemned attempts to link terrorism to Islam, a religion that sets great store by peace.

Heads of state and top officials from 21 Arab states will attend the summit excluding Syria that was suspended from the league in 2011 over Syrian regime's crackdown on protesters after peaceful protests in the southern part of the country.

The statement also included the need to confront regional intervention in the domestic affairs of Arab countries, in addition to any intervention that targets their social unity and national identity. "And first of these is the Iranian interference, the aim of which is not for the well-being of the Arabs or their interests", he said.

Among the leaders in attendance was Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, who walked the red carpet and was greeted by King Salman.

Despite the monarch's stern words of condemnation, Saudi Arabia has strengthened ties with Washington under the President Donald Trump's administration.

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Topping the agenda will be the Palestinian issue, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir.

He also announced a $150m (£105m) donation for the maintenance of Islamic heritage in East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque, and $50m (£35m) in funding for the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees.

"The league's final statement was clearly under the heavy shadow of Saudi Arabia's destructive policies", he added.

"The decisions have made the United States a party to the conflict and not a neutral mediator", Abbas said at the gathering.

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

The Arab leaders will stress their full support to the UAE's sovereignty over its three Iran-occupied islands: Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

Tensions heightened almost a year ago when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar and imposed a de facto blockade on the small Persian Gulf state.

Information for this article was contributed by Maggie Hyde of The Associated Press.

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