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Muslim States Cut Israel Ties

Muslim states, following the lead of the Arab League, on Saturday agreed to halt political contacts with Israel to pressure it to end eight months of deadly clashes with the Palestinians.

The 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said in a statement at the end of a one-day emergency meeting in Qatar that the group "decides to halt all political contacts with the Israeli government so long as the aggression and blockade against the Palestinian people and its national Authority continues..."

The 22-point statement also called for a halt in normalizing ties with Israel and for the closure of its missions and offices in member states.

The 22-member Arab League had decided on a similar step at a meeting in Cairo this week, placing pressure on the OIC members to do the same.

The OIC also urged Washington "not to obstruct the U.N. Security Council" in providing protection for Palestinians.

The meeting was called by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat following a recent escalation in Israeli attacks. Arafat appealed to delegates to adopt a "firm and solid stand as an Arab and Islamic nation in the face of this wicked aggression."

Last week, Israel used fighter-bombers against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza in response to a Palestinian suicide bombing. Top Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath called for firm measures to halt the war with Israel and for financial support for the Palestinians. He was backed by Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa.

While most delegates seemed to favor proposals for ending the violence and resuming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, there were calls from Iraq and Sudan for waging Jihad, or holy war, on Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said that the meeting should warn Israel of the consequences of "its continued criminal acts." He called for a complete boycott of the Jewish state. Three member states Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania have diplomatic relations with Israel.

The summit also called for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal for Israelis and demanded an international force be deployed to protect the Palestinians.

Since the Palestinian uprising began on Sept. 28, 474 Palestinians and 85 Israelis have been killed.

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