CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on Wednesday urged Syrian opposition groups to unify, as he addressed leaders of Islamic states at a summit that also tackled the battle against militants in Mali.
Mursi called on opposition parties not allied to Syria's National Coalition, which is recognised by the international community, "to coordinate with this coalition and support their efforts for a unified approach... for democracy".
The meeting gathers leaders of 26 of the OIC's 57 states, with Mursi, Egypt's first Islamist president, assuming the organisation's rotating presidency.
Though Syria is not represented at the conference, much of the debate was expected to focus on its conflict in which the UN says more than 60,000 people have been killed.
According to a draft resolution obtained by AFP, the gathering will call for "serious dialogue" between the Syrian opposition and government officials "not directly involved in oppression".
The call for dialogue, drafted by foreign ministers after two days of preparatory meetings, will pile pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to respond to a surprise offer of talks by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, leader of National Coalition.
The document stresses the need to maintain "Syria's territorial integrity and sovereignty", while underlining that "the main responsibility for the continued violence falls on the Syrian government".
The Syrian regime is committing "odious crimes... over which we cannot be silent," said Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
He urged the summit to support "a transfer of power" in Syria, adding that "the support by certain (states) of the Syrian regime is not helping resolve the situation," in apparent reference to Iran.
The attendance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the first visit to Egypt by an Iranian president since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, could complicate debate.
Iran is the chief regional backer of Assad, while Egypt and Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia bitterly oppose the Syrian president and support rebels seeking his ouster.
Egypt, Iran and Turkey also held talks on Syria on the sidelines of the summit.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in statements published Wednesday by Egypt's state news agency that the Iranian people are ready to march on Israel to "wipe it out" if the Jewish state attacks the Islamic republic.
"The people of Iran are ready to march on Israel to wipe it out if it launches into an adventure against Tehran" and attacks the country, the Iranian president told Egyptian newspaper editors, according to excerpts published by MENA.
"The Zionists... hope to aggress Iran and attack it, but they are very afraid of the Iranian reaction and of the consequences of such an attack," he said in the Arabic transcription of the comments made during a visit to Egypt.
"Our defence forces are capable of dissuading any aggressor and making him regret his act," Ahmadinejad said.
The meeting had been scheduled to take place in 2011 but was postponed due to the regional uprisings that overthrew four Arab dictators, including Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, the OIC's secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said.
The Cairo summit will also discuss the conflict in Mali, where French forces intervened on January 11 to help the army halt an advance on the capital Bamako by the rebels.
Egypt and Qatar have in the past said the Mali conflict needed to be resolved politically.
The Islamic leaders will also discuss the issue of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, a subject regularly brought up at OIC summits since the organisation's creation in 1969.
The questions of Islamophobia, Muslim minorities in the world and economic cooperation in the Islamic world are also on the agenda.