The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muslim nations urge US eviction from Iraq

Putrajaya (Malaysia), Oct. 11 (Reuters): Muslim nations demanded “eviction of all foreign forces from Iraq” as they began a summit in Malaysia today, with only Turkey defending plans to deploy its troops alongside the US-led alliance.

They also voiced support for Syria after an Israeli air raid last weekend stoked fears of escalating conflict in West Asia.

Abdelouahed Belkeziz, secretary-general of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said occupying forces should quickly withdraw from Iraq to give the UN a chance to reconstruct the country.

“Foremost of these is the eviction of foreign forces from Iraq, allowing the UN to administer Iraqi affairs,” Belkeziz said in his opening address.

The OIC summit, being held in Malaysia’s new administrative capital of Putrajaya, began with meetings of senior officials. Foreign ministers will meet on Monday and the leaders’ summit takes place on October 16-17.

Up to 35 heads of state are expected to attend the OIC summit in what will be the largest gathering of Muslim leaders since the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan is also scheduled to attend, along with non-members Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who both rule over large, rebellious Muslim minorities.

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

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

But veteran Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, hosting the summit before his retirement on October 31, said the OIC would have little influence as long as US politicians supported 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,” Mahathir said.

Turkey isolated

The opposition to the US-led occupation of Iraq left neighbouring Turkey isolated.

The lead delegate from Turkey’s team of senior officials said although Ankara would have liked a UN mandate to help restore order in neighbouring Iraq, it was more important to act. “We decided to do something. Of course, it is easy for us to stay away, to criticise, to say that the occupation should end,” Tahsin Burcuoglu said.

When later asked by Reuters whether troops would definitely not be deployed in the Kurdish north, where Turkey is regarded with deep suspicion, Burcuoglu said: “No. We already have troops there, we will not be sending any more.”

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