Saudi King to Attend U.N. Interfaith Dialogue

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - The ruler of conservative Saudi Arabia said he plans to attend a meeting at the United Nations next month to discuss his initiative to promote interfaith dialogue, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

In remarks carried by the agency late Saturday, King Abdullah, whose country bans non-Muslims from openly practicing their religion, called for religious tolerance and said such dialogue is the duty of every human being. The king also urged fellow Muslims to reach out to non-Muslims as a way to show that Islam is not a violent religion.

"I will go to America for the dialogue of followers of religions," the king said at a meeting with Information Minister Ayad Madani and newspaper editors. "The dialogue comes a time when the world is criticizing Islam."

"It is regrettable that some of our sons have been tempted by Satan or brothers of Satan," the king added, referring to Muslim militants who have carried out attacks around the world. "Nothing can purify (Islam's reputation) except for the extension of Muslims' hands to their brothers in other religions."

Abdullah has taken a leading role in bringing adherents of different sects and religions together. In the past few years, he has encouraged dialogue between the kingdom's Sunni majority and Shiite minority.

Earlier this year, he brought together different Muslim sects for a meeting in the holy city of Mecca. In July, he presided over a gathering of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists among other religions hosted by Spain.

Saudi newspapers this month quoted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as saying that the General Assembly will discuss the king's interfaith initiative in mid-November, on Saudi Arabia's national day.