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Palestinian leader: Bush has no credibility
Updated: 2004-04-22 16:08

US President George W. Bush has squandered Washington's credibility as a Middle East peace broker by backing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan to withdraw from Palestinian territory, a senior Palestinian leader said Thursday.

``The credibility of the United States is nonsense,'' Farouk Kaddoumi told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Islamic countries in Malaysia.

In a major change to long-standing US policy, Bush last week backed Sharon's plan for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from some Palestinian areas while keeping parts of the West Bank.

The plan, and Bush's approval of it, outraged many Muslims who oppose unilateral action by Israel and say the scheme tears up previous UN requirements on Israel and Bush's so-called ``road map'' peace plan.

``They have deviated from the right road,'' Kaddoumi said of the Bush administration. ``They initiated and proposed the peace initiative, but now, lately, after the visit from Sharon, they have canceled all these intentions to revive the peace process.''

Thursday's meeting of about 20 members of 57-strong Organization of the Islamic Conference -- the Islamic world's largest political grouping -- was called at short notice to discuss the Sharon plan and spiraling violence in Iraq.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the current OIC chairman, said the plan threatened to ``literally wreck the entire peace process in the Middle East'' and said Bush's support for it was ``most unfortunate.''

In a speech opening the meeting, Abdullah called suicide bombings that kill civilians ``unjustified'' but said the ``state terrorism'' of Israel had ``even more severe consequences'' for Palestinians.

``Indeed the terror inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel is beginning to assume the characteristics of atrocities once encountered by the Jews themselves,'' said Abdullah, whose country is considered moderate and progressive among Islamic nations.

Delegates -- foreign ministers and lower-ranked officials -- are expected to adopt a strongly worded statement condemning the Sharon plan.

Officials told The Associated Press that the statement could include a call for all OIC members to impose economic sanctions on and sever diplomatic ties with Israel.

If such a move were adopted, it is unclear what effect it would have, as few Islamic countries have economic or diplomatic ties with Israel.

The statement would also denounce Israel's recent killings of two Palestinian militant leaders and demand that Israel cease extrajudicial killings, officials said.

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