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'Eviction' of U.S. From Iraq Urged at Summit

October 12, 2003|From Reuters

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Muslim nations demanded "eviction of all foreign forces from Iraq" as they began a summit Saturday in Malaysia, with only Turkey defending plans to deploy its troops alongside the U.S.-led alliance.

Delegates also voiced support for Syria after an Israeli air raid last weekend stoked fears of escalating conflict in the Middle East as Damascus warned it had the right of self-defense.

Abdelouahed Belkeziz, secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, said occupying forces should quickly withdraw from Iraq to give the United Nations a chance to reconstruct the country.

"Foremost of these is the eviction of foreign forces from Iraq, allowing the United Nations to administer Iraqi affairs," Belkeziz said in his opening address.

The OIC Summit, being held in Malaysia's new administrative capital, Putrajaya, began with meetings of senior officials.

Foreign ministers will meet Monday, and the leaders' discussions will take place Thursday and Friday.

Belkeziz, a Moroccan, said the summit should address concerns arising from terrorism, globalization and "campaigns against Islam, Muslims and human rights."

He also condemned Israel for what he said was its failing to live up to peace process commitments, and he said the OIC supported the Palestinian and Iraqi people and Iranian and Syrian governments against "aggression."

But veteran Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, presiding over the summit before his retirement Oct. 31, said the OIC would have little influence as long as U.S. politicians support Israel.

"We can go to war, but we have no capacity to go to war. That's the problem. We [Muslims] have allowed ourselves to become weak. People bully us," he told a news conference.

The OIC opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq left Turkey isolated. The lead delegate from Turkey's team of senior officials said that although Ankara would have liked a U.N. mandate to help restore order in Iraq, it was more important to act.

Ankara is negotiating terms for troop deployment with Washington, but the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council is opposed to troops from neighboring countries being allowed in.

"We don't like to have any peacekeeping troops from neighboring countries, because it might cause problems inside Iraq," said Riyadh Fadhli, an Iraqi delegate to the conference. "The situation now in Iraq is very sensitive. It cannot take more difficulties."

The OIC was split until recently over whether the Iraqi Governing Council should assume the seat held by Saddam Hussein's ousted government, but it has been decided that representatives of the panel would be welcomed.

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