CAIRO (Reuters) - The Saudi delegation at the Arab League stormed out of a meeting after Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari defended the Shi‘ite Hashd Shaabi militia grouping, an Iraqi foreign ministry source told Reuters on Friday.
Tensions between Sunni and Shi‘ite Muslim powers have been on the rise as sectarian wars rage in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and the Arab League has become a forum for predominantly Sunni countries, led by Saudi Arabia, to air grievances with regional Shi‘ite power Iran.
“The Saudi delegation withdrew from the meeting hall after the speech of Foreign Minister Al-Jaafari who rejected speaking against Hashd Shaabi and other resistance groups,” the source said, declining to be named.
“In his speech he said that Hashd Shaabi and Hezbollah have preserved the dignity of the Arabs and those who call them terrorists are the terrorists,” he said.
A Saudi foreign ministry spokesman could not be reached for comment.
In January, Iraq summoned the Saudi ambassador after he suggested Iranian-backed Shi‘ite militias were exacerbating sectarian tensions in Iraq.
Morocco said last month that it would not host the 2016 Arab League meeting as scheduled, saying it wanted to avoid giving a false impression of unity in the Arab world.
Reporting by Mostafa Salem; Writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Louise Ireland