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Hawks issue fatwa against sending troops to Iraq

Islamabad, Aug. 14 (Reuters): Pakistan’s hardline Islamic groups, locked in a bitter standoff with the pro-military government, issued a religious decree today against dispatching Pakistani troops to Iraq.

Pakistan, a key ally in what Washington calls its “war on terror”, has been asked by the US to send around 10,000 soldiers to Iraq to help secure the post-war peace.

The fatwa, which Islamic groups said was passed unanimously by different religious scholars, would make it politically difficult for President Pervez Musharraf to send troops.

“Sending the troops to Iraq, to line them against the Iraqi Muslims who are suffering under the oppression of the US is against the orders of the Quran and also against the collective conscience of the Islamic community,” it said.

A copy of the five-page edict, which has no legal binding on the government but carries political weight, was handed out to the media by the Islamic alliance of six religious parties, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, at a public rally against Musharraf.

“If Musharraf sends troops to Iraq he will face resistance in every nook and corner of the country,” fire-brand Islamic leader Liaqat Baluch told the rally in Rawalpindi.

Islamabad, which backed the US in its war against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, says it has agreed in principle to send troops to Iraq.

But Musharraf said last month he would prefer his troops to serve under the auspices of the UN, the Organisation of Islamic Conference or another legitimate body.

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