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THE MIDDLE EAST

Muslims Split on 'Terror' by Palestinians

April 02, 2002|From Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Islamic countries at a major meeting on terrorism were split Monday about whether to condemn Palestinian suicide bombers as terrorists, but they were united in condemning Israel's widening offensive into Palestinian territory.

The delegates passed a unanimous resolution accusing Israel of "dragging the region toward an all-out war" and calling for U.N. sanctions to deter Israeli military action.

Fault lines appeared immediately as the Palestinian representative disagreed with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the meeting's host, who said that suicide bombers killing Israeli civilians should be condemned.

"It is not necessary to condemn the suicide bombers, because we have to take into consideration the reasons behind somebody [being] willing to lose his life," the Palestinians' de facto foreign minister, Farouk Kaddoumi, told reporters at the conference in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories is "the highest and worst kind of terrorism, and the human being, if he sacrifices his life--there must be a reason," Kaddoumi said. "The reason is state terrorism."

Deputy Foreign Minister Ivica Misic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, chief of his country's anti-terrorism team, disagreed.

"I don't care about race or religion," Ivica said. "I agree that if a person kills or harms a civilian he is a terrorist, no matter how noble his struggle may be."

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said later that Mahathir's comments should not be taken out of context and that the Malaysian leader believed that the suicide bombers acted in response to Israeli aggression.

"It is the Israeli occupation that has brought about this," Syed Hamid said after Monday's round of talks closed.

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