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From Saudi Arabia's establishment in 1932, its minority Shiite population has been subject to discrimination and sectarian incitement. Beginning in the early 1990s, with then Crown Prince Abdullah's active support, the government took steps to improve inter-sectarian relations. But the measures were modest, and tensions are rising. The war in Iraq has had a notable effect, strengthening Shiite aspirations and Sunni suspicions and generally deepening confessional divisions throughout the region. King Abdullah needs to act resolutely to improve the lot of the two-million strong Shiite community and rein in domestic expressions of anti-Shiite hostility.
U.S. drive in Africa, Iran-backed Shiite's rise worry Sunni-dominated Arab world.
Newspapers and television talk shows, especially in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are filled with anti-Shiite rhetoric. In its latest edition, Egypt's state-owned Rose El-Youssef weekly carried a cover story on Saddam's execution with a banner headline: "Raising the ugly face of Shiites, expanding Iranian influence in the region."
"Saddam's execution unmasked the Persian hatred against Arabs and revealed the true affiliation of the (Shiite) militia-government in Baghdad,"wrote Ghassan Al-Immam in the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat paper Tuesday.
QATIF, Saudi Arabia, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A leading Shi'ite cleric said on Monday Saudi Shi'ites would not be dragged into a sectarian conflict in the region and that their loyalty was to the kingdom [of S.A.] and not Iran.
Shi'ites in the Eastern Province, where most of Saudi Arabia's huge oilfields are located, rose against the Saudi authorities after Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The government has been suspicious of them ever since. There has been an easing of restrictions on Shi'ites openly practising their faith since Sunni militants linked to al Qaeda began a campaign to topple the Saudi royals in 2003.