Zambia ‘worried at Iran’s attempts to spread sectarianism

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President Edgar Lungu of Zambia has expressed serious concerns over Iran’s attempts to make headway in Africa to spread its sectarian ideology.

“These attempts are a source of serious concern for the African leaders,” Lungu told Okaz/Saudi Gazette in an exclusive interview.

The Zambian president was in Saudi Arabia on an official visit during which he held talks with Saudi King Salman and senior Saudi officials on Tuesday.

Lungu called for an immediate halt to Iran’s machinations in the region and asked Muslims to sit together to settle their differences lest they might destroy each other.

“We should stay away from sectarianism. We all believe in the same God. We should all be tolerant. Our message is peace. We should stay away from anything that might disturb peace or create turmoil,” he said.

Lungu also condemned the Russian protection to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

“There is no reason for Russia to destroy Syria under the pretext of protecting the regime,” he said.

He called for putting an immediate end to the killings of innocent people especially women and children in Syria and said all African leaders are looking forward to an immediate cessation of hostilities and destruction in this Arab country.

The Zambian president called for amending the statute of the UN and the Security Council so that small countries will not feel the hegemony of the big powers.

Lungu said his talks with King Salman on Tuesday focused on bilateral relations, regional and international issues and the current developments in the region, particularly Syria and Yemen.

“Saudi Arabia is playing a pivotal role in resolving these two crises and we support and encourage him,” he added.

The president was sure the Houthi rebels in Yemen will come back to the negotiating table and pointed out that all crises in the world, even the World War Two, were resolved through negotiations.

Lungu expressed his worries over extremist activities in Africa, especially by Boko Haram of Nigeria, and said the continent wants peace and stability.
“A reason of my visit to the Kingdom is to have a firsthand assessment of its experiment in combating terrorism,” he explained.

He considered religious extremism to be a major cause of extremism and said they should not be allowed to steal religion to promote their agenda.
“In Zambia we also have extremists and we are trying to face this challenge through close cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the United States,” he said.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on May 23, 2016.

[Jameel Al-Diyabi, Saudi Gazette]

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