DOHA, Qatar – A prominent Sunni cleric accused Iran on Saturday of bearing some responsibility for sectarian Shiite militia attacks on Sunnis in Iraq.
Egyptian-born Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi told an Islamic conference in this Qatari capital that the violence in Iraq targeting Sunnis is driving them out of Baghdad.
"The bloodshed and violence in Iraq are unspeakable and Sunnis are suffering the most. They are been killed, tortured and decapitated, to the point they are abandoning Baghdad. There is a religious cleansing going on there," said al-Qaradawi, who is based in the Gulf.
"Shiites rule Iraq today and control everything and Iran has an influence there, thus they have partial responsibility for what is going on," he added.
Sunnis and Shiites leaders from across the Muslim world gathered in Doha over the weekend for a three-day conference aimed at finding ways to stop the sectarian strife in Iraq. Many fear the violence could spill over to other countries in the region.
The U.S. military accuses Iran of providing weapons to Iraqi insurgents and to Shiite militias, but Iranian leaders at the conference denied their country's involvement in Iraq and said the ongoing sectarian violence there is an internal issue.
"We have nothing to do with what is going on in Iraq. This is an internal matter. We have called on factions to stop the violence, but we do not interfere," Ayatollah Ali Zada said.
But al-Qaradawi also urged all Muslims to remain united against the "common enemy" — the United States. "While we do not agree with Iran's policies in Iraq, we should remain united to fight our real enemy," he said.
Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Ali Taskhiri, one of the conference organizers, said the U.S. was to blame for Iraq's religious conflict, not Iran.
The United States is "trying to turn the Sunnis against the Shiites and the Shiites against the Sunnis. They are pushing extremists on both sides," he told the conference.