PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA -- The world's Islamic nations opened their biggest conference since the terror attacks on the United States with a call for "the eviction of foreign forces from Iraq", despite deep divisions over the issue.
The United Nations should take over the administration of Iraqi affairs "in accordance with a clear and short timetable," said Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) secretary-general Abdelouahed Belkeziz on Saturday.
Malaysian Police armed forces stand guard Friday, Oct. 10, 2003 outside the new Convention Center where the 10th Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) will be held on Oct. 16-18 in Putrajaya, Malaysia. More than 8,000 police and military personnel have been deployed to provide security for the summit, being held in a region where the Jemaah Islamiyah group, an ally of al-Qaida, is accused of having staged deadly bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia. (AP Photo/Teh Eng Koon)
He told senior officials preparing for an OIC summit here next week that the Islamic world had been "in the face of the storm" in the three years since the last full summit of the 57-member Organization in 2000.
The global fallout from the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States had seen Afghanistan invaded, Iraq occupied and "the campaign against Islam, the Islamic culture and its adherents gain momentum".
The Iraqi people had "been afflicted by the occupation of their territories, usurpation of their sovereignty, denial of their independence, destruction, plunder and burning of their country," said the Moroccan national, who has been OIC secretary-general since 2001.
Islamic nations should commit themselves to "the eviction of foreign forces from Iraq, allowing the United Nations to administer Iraqi affairs, prelude to the restoration of Iraq's independence, and to the rebuilding of what has been destroyed over the past 20 years, all in accordance with a clear and short time-table," he said.
However, on the sidelines of the conference a row over Turkey's decision to provide peacekeeping troops to the US-led occupation forces in Iraq, which is represented here by the US-appointed Governing Council, demonstrated the divisions within the Organization
The head of Iraq's delegation of senior officials, Riyadh al-Fadhli, told reporters: "We don't like to have any peacekeeping troops from neighboring countries because it might cause problems inside Iraq.
"We have very large commercial and trade relations with Turkey, so we would like to stick to this connection and not have Turkish troops inside Iraq for the time being."
His Turkish counterpart, Tahsin Burcuoglu, told reporters however that Turkish troops would be in Iraq to help the people and "will not be there as part of the occupation."
Questioned on the opposition to the troop deployment by some Iraqi officials, he said: "In Iraq, there is one authority and that is the American authority."
The OIC held an extraordinary summit in Qatar in March this year at which it "totally rejected" the then-anticipated US-led invasion of Iraq, although members Kuwait and Qatar allowed the use of their territory by US troops in the build-up to the war.
Only a handful of Islamic heads of state or government turned up at that one-day meeting, however, while some 35 have confirmed their attendance at the summit in Malaysia's new administrative capital on Thursday and Friday next week.
Iraq will be represented by Iyad Allawi, the head of the Governing Council, despite initial objections by Malaysia on the grounds that the country is still under occupation.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will attend, along with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Gloria Arroyo will be present as observers, while the United Nations will be represented by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Apart from Iraq, the conference is expected to focus on "terrorism, globalization, dialogue among civilizations, campaigns against Islam and Muslims, human rights," said Belkeziz.
The Palestinian issue will also be prominent, as it has been since the founding of the OIC in 1969, and Belkeziz fired the opening shots of what is likely to be a sustained attack on Israel.
He said the situation was worsening daily because of Israel's failure to fulfill its obligations under the "road map" for peace.
Copyright 2003 AFP