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Islamic Summit Opens in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivers a speech at the Kuala Lumpur Summit, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dec. 19, 2019.

Saudi Arabia is one of a handful of Muslim nations not in attendance at a four-day conference in Kuala Lumpur aimed at addressing some of the Islamic world's thorniest issues.

The conference, dubbed the Kuala Lumpur Summit, was organized by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It is expected to discuss such issues as the plight of the Muslim Uighurs in China's remote Xinjiang province, where millions are being held in what critics are calling internment camps.

The Saudi kingdom says it is boycotting the summit because it is being held outside the banner of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation based in Jeddah. The OIC issued a statement Wednesday saying such meetings not only weaken the bloc, it also weakens Islam.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was scheduled to attend the forum, but reportedly pulled out under pressure from Riyadh.

Iran, Turkey and Qatar - all rivals of Saudi Arabia - are in attendance.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for greater economic cooperation within the Islamic community to fight what he called "the domination of the United States dollar and the American financial regime." Iran's economy has been battered since Washington re-imposed crippling economic sanctions after it withdrew from an international agreement aimed at curbing Islamabad's nuclear program.