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Eyes on Putin's stance on Iraq at Muslim summit
( 2003-10-16 13:54) (Agencies)

Host Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told an Islamic summit in Malaysia that Muslims must outsmart Israel in negotiations, but most eyes were on Russian guest President Vladimir Putin's stance on Iraq.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a big screen as he speaks during the opening of the 10th Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Putrajaya near Kuala Lumpur October 16, 2003. Leaders of Muslim nations, joined by Putin, opened a summit in Malaysia, and were expected to discuss the Islamic world's two biggest issues -- Iraq and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  [Reuters]

Putin, on a one-day visit to Malaysia, was set to have a teleconference later in the day with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to coordinate their positions over a controversial U.S. draft resolution.

The U.N. Security Council is due to vote on the resolution later on Thursday. The European powers have suggested amendments.

Iraq and the Israel-Palestinian conflict are the Islamic world's two biggest issues, but the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) struggles to have influence on either.

The president of Iraq's U.S.-backed governing council has sent a clear message to fellow Muslim states at the OIC that their interference would not be appreciated.

And Mahathir, soon to retire and making his valedictory appearance at an OIC summit, declared that over 50 years of fighting had accomplished nothing for the Palestinians while the Jewish people enjoyed the influence of a world power.

But he said faith could lead Muslims to victory at the negotiating table.

"The Koran tells us that when the enemy sues for peace we must react positively," he told the summiteers, adding that his words would not be popular.

"True the treaty offered to us is not favorable. But we can negotiate. The Prophet did," he said.

"And in the end he triumphed."

Two kings, two sheikhs, a prince and a sultan were among some 30 heads of state and government attending the largest assembly of Muslim leaders since Muslim radicals attacked the United States in September 2001.

The meeting, being held in Malaysia's new administrative capital, Putrajaya, is scheduled to end on Friday. Just a few years old, the road from Putrajaya's palaces, lakes and mosques to the space age conference center on its outskirts is still unfinished and palm trees lining the avenue were planted days before the summit opened.


Putin and Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who both have large, rebellious Muslim minorities, were guests.

Resolutions drawn up by foreign ministers ahead of the summit, condemning Israel's military incursions in the Palestinian territories and its air strike on Syria earlier this month are expected to be passed.

But Iraq's U.S.-backed Provisional Governing Council asked the OIC to hold in abeyance another motion calling for the United Nations to take a central role in the reconstruction of Iraq and for the U.S.-led occupying forces to quit as soon as possible.

"We made the request this morning. They will surely pull it out," Nbhan Salih, a member of the Iraqi delegation, told Reuters.

The council wants first to see the U.N. Security Council pass a U.S. resolution which would transform the council's role into the interim authority in Iraq, embodying the state, and give the occupying forces a U.N. mandate.

The OIC allowed the Provisional Governing Council to represent the occupied country in the absence of a government, and its president sent a clear message to fellow Muslim states that, while their advice and help would be appreciated, their interference would not.

"We are willing to listen to advice but we do not accept from anyone else other than Iraqis to have imposed on us the nature of timetabling the next agenda for Iraq," said Iyad Allawi, who took over the council presidency under the rotating leadership earlier this month, on the eve of the summit.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was unable to come to Malaysia because of the splits in the leadership and an Israeli policy to have him exiled, deported or eliminated.

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