Muslim Nations Hear Iraq's Appeals

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar is shown on two large screen during the opening ceremony of the ministerial preparatory meeting for the 10th session of the Islamic Summit Conference at Putrajaya, Monday, Oct. 13, 2003. Malaysia, the host of the world's largest summit of Islamic nations, on Monday denounced Israel and the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, saying they represented a threat to "the very survival" of worldwide Muslim community.
Iraq's foreign minister said Monday that Muslim nations need to accept the reality that the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq will last for a while, and he urged them to contribute peacekeeping forces and money.

Hoshyar Zebari, representative of the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council, said any American withdrawal would be gradual. He said other countries had reacted coolly to his request for soldiers to help stabilize Iraq.

"I don't think there is any desire by the Muslim countries to send troops," Zebari said at a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia.

Ayad Alawi, head of the council's rotating leadership, arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and said the council expected Islamic countries to stand firmly behind it "during this difficult period."

Alawi told the Malaysian news agency, Bernama, that the council desires full Iraqi sovereignty "as soon as possible," but cautioned that it won't happen "without a firm and positive attitude from the international community."

"We would like the Islamic countries to assist us to move forward and for Iraq to have democracy and stability," Alawi said.

At the outset of the weeklong meetings Saturday, senior officials from the 57 members of the OIC — the world's biggest Islamic organization — urged the "eviction" of U.S. troops from Iraq, something Zebari said would not happen in the near future.

The Governing Council's presence at the summit was in dispute until two weeks ago, when host Malaysia dropped insistence that the council was illegitimate without a U.N. mandate and should not take the seat formerly held by Saddam Hussein's government. Arab countries prevailed with their view that the council was transitional and legitimate enough, for now.

Most Muslim countries have rejected the idea of sending peacekeepers to Iraq — desperately desired by Washington to relieve the burden on the 130,000 U.S. troops there — without at least a U.N. stamp of approval.

"The sentiment of this meeting is that stability should come as soon as possible in Iraq," said Musa Braiza, a Jordanian representative. The countries "will do anything possible and everything positive. But the question of forces is now not on the agenda."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri, whose country has been approached by Washington for troops, said Islamabad wants U.N. authority first — and the participation of other Muslim nations.

"We will wait for a United Nations resolution which could reflect international consensus," Kasuri told The Associated Press. "Even then, we would need other Muslim countries to go along with us, because we want the people of Iraq to perceive us not as an extension of the occupation, but as people who have come to help."

Kasuri said Pakistan was thinking of an all-Muslim peacekeeping force comprising troops from OIC countries. But he told AP he doubted the OIC would reach consensus on such a plan because it "represents the whole gamut of the Muslim world" — an apparent reference to nations like Syria and Iran, which deeply oppose U.S. policy.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who chaired the discussions, said any Muslim contributions to a peacekeeping force would come on a country-by-country basis.

"The OIC is not an organization that is a military bloc, neither is our charter formatted to allow us to form an OIC force to operate," Syed Hamid said.

Zebari said Muslim countries would be able to help in Iraq's reconstruction at a donor conference in Madrid later this month.

The U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has said a list will be presented to donors, complete with costs, of everything necessary to help Iraq recover from the war and preceding 12 years of economic sanctions.

Syed Hamid told The Associated Press that Iraqis requested "understanding and assistance" in reconstruction.

A senior official who attended the meeting said the response was muted. Many countries said that they hoped Iraq's full independence would be restored quickly.

Iraq didn't respond "negatively. They just listened," Syed Hamid said. "They are in no position to do it because they are still a country under occupation."

Zebari, a Kurd, said discussions were continuing between Turkey, the United States and the Governing Council about the sensitivities over Turkey's offer to deploy a peacekeeping force — the first Muslim country to do so without requiring U.N. approval.

Many Iraqis fear that peacekeepers from neighboring countries could end up in interfering in Iraq's internal affairs and "everyone, in our view, has its own political agenda," Zebari said.

Turkey once ruled what is now Iraq. It has fought a long campaign against Kurdish insurgents on its soil, which many Iraqis fear could spill over into Iraq's own Kurdish areas.