Ministers discuss crisis facing Muslims ahead of Islamic summit |

Ministers discuss crisis facing Muslims ahead of Islamic summit

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Representatives of Islamic countries met on Tuesday ahead of a two-day summit, with delegates saying the world’s largest Islamic organization must reform to face new challenges.Foreign ministers and senior officials of the 57 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held discussions to prepare for the summit, which begins Wednesday and is expected to forge a plan to reform the group and give it more clout.”The Muslim nation is facing great challenges and enormous dangers targeting its cultural foundations and religious creeds,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said.The meeting opens in Islam’s holy city of Mecca Wednesday and continues in Jiddah Thursday.The issue of terrorism also would be high on the agenda, said Abdelaziz Belkhadem, a top adviser of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He said the summit was expected to produce a code of conduct for Islamic countries to counter terrorism.But Belkhadem said the conference should also urge Western countries to adopt laws that would include harsher penalties for attacks against Muslims there.Delegates said there were disagreements over the issue of combatting terrorism, with Qatar and Jordan at odds over the wording of part of the summit’s final communique. A draft of the document states that terrorism goes against Islam’s teachings and “all necessary measures must be taken against it.”Jordan proposed the text clearly state that Islamic nations must fight terrorism, while Qatar was insisting on milder wording, with delegates saying it was arguing that tough wording might be interpreted as yielding to American pressure.Jordanian foreign minister Abdel Ellah al-Khatib acknowledged disagreements. “This is an organization of 57 countries, so it is normal that they differ,” he said.The leaders also were expected to discuss the situation in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan.Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said his delegation would ask the conference to condemn the violence in Iraq. “This is not resistance. It is terrorism, and should be condemned,” he told The Associated Press.Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari echoed that sentiment.”We want the summit to come out with a crystal clear support of the political process and a condemnation of terrorism,” he said. The insurgency “is a crime against all Iraqis, it should be condemned as strongly as possible.”In his opening statement, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu warned of what he described as increasing “Islamophobia.”Ihsanoglu, a Turk who took over as OIC head in January, also proposed a plan for restructuring the 36-year-old organization over the next ten years so it can take a more active role in international affairs.Ihsanoglu did not give any details of his plan. But delegates said he is seeking to remodel the OIC along the lines of the European Union or United Nations in a bid to give its members more power. The 57-nation group has had only an advisory role, with annual summits that often serve as little more than a discussion forum.The OIC, which was founded in 1969, is based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.Vail, Colorado

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