Putrajaya (Malaysia), Oct. 12 (Reuters): Pakistan poured cold water on calls for a US withdrawal from Iraq, saying today that it was unlikely other nations could stabilise the country without American troops.
The issue of Iraq is expected to dominate the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit this week, along with mounting concern over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and escalating tensions with neighbouring Syria.
Preparatory meetings for the summit kicked off yesterday with a demand from OIC secretary-general Abdelouahed Belkeziz for the eviction of all foreign forces from Iraq so that the UN can do the job.
Host Malaysia, which takes over the chair for the 57-member group for the next three years, also said only fellow Muslim nations should have troops in Iraq, and that they should be under the UN’s umbrella.
But Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said it was unrealistic to demand the US pull out.
“Nobody’s asked for that, neither France nor Germany, people are not so unrealistic,” Kasuri said. “Afterall, the US has 150,000 troops (in Iraq). Who’s going to come up with all that'”
“What we are talking of is international legality — I don’t see other countries coming with such large numbers of troops.”
The US had hoped Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India could provide back up to relieve the burden on the 131,000 US troops in Iraq. Washington has since admitted India is unlikely to help out, while Pakistan wants either a mandate from the UN, or a request from the Iraqis before considering such a move.
Turkey has so far stood alone among Muslim nations by offering to send 10,000 troops to help the US-led forces in Iraq bring about stability.
But Ankara’s offer is compromised by the Iraqi governing council’s opposition, due to distrust that neighbours like Turkey could take advantage of the country’s vulnerability. “If we go to Iraq it is solely with humanitarian and peaceful aims,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a ruling party meeting.
On the other key issues set before summit, OIC senior officials gave their full backing to Syria, following an Israeli air strike on its territory a week ago.
They “affirmed solidarity with and support for the leadership of Syria against the unjust aggression they are going through”, a draft report on their meeting said.
Israel claims its target was a militant training base used by Islamic Jihad — the group that claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that killed 19 people on October 4. Syria said Israel had struck a civilian target.
With the Palestinian leadership in turmoil, the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s political office, Farouq al-Kaddoumi was sent to Malaysia. He arrived full of fighting talk. “Pursuing the armed struggle is a must as it is the only solution in sight to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” al-Kaddoumi told Malaysia’s state-run Bernama news agency.
Arab observers say his comments do no necessarily reflect what the Palestinian leadership thinks.