Austria mulls quitting Saudi-backed religious center in Vienna

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal talks to journalists upon his arrival in front of the ‘King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue’ (KAICIID) in Vienna November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

(Reuters) – Chancellor Werner Faymann has called for Austria to withdraw from a Saudi-sponsored religious dialogue center in Vienna that has become embroiled in controversy over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

He became the latest and most senior Austrian politician to suggest quitting the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), which was opened in 2012.

Riyadh paid for the baroque palace that houses the center, and is footing its budget for the first three years.

“This center does not fulfill at all the mandate of dialogue and is silent about basic issues of human rights. We will not tolerate this. It is clear to me from today’s perspective that we should get out,” Faymann told newspaper Der Standard in an interview published on Saturday.

Austria has been particularly critical in recent days over Saudi Arabia’s flogging of an atheist and civil rights blogger, sentenced to 1,000 lashes for charges including insulting Islam.

The Foreign Ministry called in the Saudi ambassador to protest, although a second round of public flogging scheduled for Friday was postponed…