Islamic nations cite U.S. 'threat'

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (BNW) Most Islamic nations have denounced the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and Israel's treatment of Palestinians, saying they represented a threat to "the very survival" of the worldwide Muslim community.

"We are gathered here at a time characterized by great challenges confronting the Muslim Ummah (community)," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said.

"The threats of unilateralism, globalization and terrorism, the precarious situation in the Middle East and the uncertain future of Iraq ... have only served to threaten our very survival."

Syed Hamid was speaking at the opening of the foreign ministers meeting of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), preparing the way for a summit by national leaders later this week that will be preoccupied with the occupation of Iraq.

The gathering marks the body's first summit in three years, when terrorism has clouded the world's view of Islam and Muslim nations are incensed by the continuing occupation of Iraq and by Israel's repeated crackdowns against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

A day after a twin suicide car-bombing rocked a Baghdad hotel where officials of the U.S. occupation authority stay, Syed Hamid said that the Muslim world was deeply worried by the worsening situation in Iraq, saying security was "at its lowest."

Stabilizing Iraq and ending U.S. occupation of the country has led to a dispute within Muslim countries over whether to dispatch peacekeepers, desperately sought by the United States to ease the burden on its 130,000 troops inside the country.

But only Turkey so far has agreed to send peacekeepers without control over the country first being shifted to the United Nations.

Pakistan, another U.S. ally, is trying to get a proposal on the summit agenda for the OIC to send a peacekeeping contingent under a U.N. mandate.

Though several nations have said they would consider sending troops only under U.N. auspices, the Pakistani proposal for an OIC contingent has not made it onto the agenda, the Malaysian news agency Bernama cited a diplomat as saying.


The U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council is being welcomed at the summit, despite concerns raised in preceding weeks by host Malaysia about its legitimacy. The powerful Arab bloc has said the council is transitional and legitimate enough, for now.

Iraq is represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, and by Ayad Alawi, current holder of the council's rotating leadership.

Longtime envoy Farouk Kaddoumi is representing the Palestinians.

A resolution welcoming the Governing Council will be approved, but will also stress that full sovereignty should be returned to Iraq, as well as control over its oil.

"Foreign occupation of Iraq today is a reality (as is) the existence of the provisional Governing Council," Syed Hamid said.

"However, foreign occupation of the country must be brought to an end as soon as possible. ... It is our moral duty to assist the people of Iraq to regain their sovereignty and integrity."

Syed Hamid also lashed out at Israel, saying that "the Israeli army's vicious military campaigns, provocations and destruction of Palestinian homes will only lead to a spiraling upheaval in the already volatile situation."

"Israel should immediately cease ... all acts of violence, terror, provocation, incitement and destruction in the occupied Palestinian territories," Syed Hamid said.

Malaysia, a moderate Muslim nation, has been a longtime critic of Israel and of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad denounced both nations over the weekend for allegedly trying to spark a wider Middle East war following Israel's airstrike against an alleged Palestinian militant training camp in Syria.

Other speakers at the meeting also denounced Israel's policies, including its threats to deport Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is prevented from leaving the occupied territories by Israel and has sent longtime envoy Farouk Kaddoumi to represent the Palestinians.

Echoing a widespread feeling among the member states, Syed Hamid complained that the 34-year-old Organization of the Islamic Conference is crippled "by its inability to move with time, to project and develop an Islamic perspective of events and issues affecting the Islamic world today."

Malaysian officials say their nation, as chair for the next three years, will strive to transform the organization into an effective advocate for Muslim interests.

OIC Secretary-General Abdelhouahed Belkeziz said that the Muslim world was being threatened by "enormous dangers."

"They are so overwhelming that they are probably unequaled in contemporary Islamic history," Belkeziz said. "Islam itself stands acc

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