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Sectarian lines in Syria highlight Sunni-Shia divide

CAIRO — The ominous backdrop of civil war in Syria has exposed a Sunni-Shia sectarian fault line that was trembling at the summit of Islamic nations, which came to a close Thursday.

The crisis in Syria, observers here said, has become a kind of proxy war in the Sunni-Shia divide.

It was clear at the two-day summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that Iran’s Shiite theocracy is unwavering in its support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Led by an Alawite minority that is considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam, Assad’s regime stepped up its pounding of the opposition, even as the delegates of the 52-nation regional organization were convening.

Meanwhile, the predominantly Sunni nations of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that attended the summit made it clear they were putting their regional clout and their petro dollars behind the still ill-defined Syrian rebel forces, which are suffering enormous casualties in a war that has already claimed 60,000 lives.

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