Doha: A prominent Sunni cleric yesterday blamed Iran for interfering in Iraq's internal affairs and called on the country to help stop the sectarian strife.
Yousuf Al Qaradawi urged Shiite leaders worldwide and Iran's authority to condemn the killings of Sunnis in war-ravaged Iraq, before the sectarian clashes got out of control.
"Thousands have been killed in Iraq since the Americans entered the country and Sunnis are the ones suffering most in Iraq. There is an ethnic cleansing going on," said the cleric.
"Iran is influencing the situation in Iraq and unless they intervene to stop the religious killings the situation will deteriorate further. Shiites are controlling the country [Iraq] now and Iran bears part of the responsibility for what is going on there."
Egypt-born Al Qaradawi, who is considered a religious authority in the Gulf region and has a popular programme on Qatar's Al Jazeera channel, was addressing some 200 Sunni and Shiite religious leaders meeting in Doha for a three-day conference on the Dialogue on Islamic sects. Al Qaradawi called on Sunnis and Shiites to overlook their differences and to be united against what he called the threats posed to the region by its "enemies".
"We do not agree with Iran's policies in Iraq, but we also condemn the US attempts to attack Iran and we stand by Iranians in their demand to have nuclear power," he added.
Addressing the audience at the opening ceremony, Iran's Shaikh Mohammad Al Tashkiri, secretary-general of the World Forum of Proximity of Islamic Thought, said the United States was to blame for the religious conflict in Iraq.
"They [the USA] are trying to turn the Sunni against the Shiite and vice-versa, pushing extremists on both sides and exploiting our differences to create animosity," he said.
"This comes within the enemy's and Zionists' attempts to gain control of our region and to stop the rebirth of Islam in the young generations." he said.
The meeting is meant to find ways to bring Islamic factions together in the framework of the growing sectarian violence in Iraq and try to stop the violence.
Akmel Al Deen Ihasanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the polarisation and confrontation between schools of thought in Iraq is deteriorating despite all efforts by the OIC, religious and political leaders in the region to stop the clashes.