Islamic Countries Tackle Intifada for Second Successive Day
Islamic foreign ministers continued their talks on the Palestinian Intifada Friday ahead of the ninth Islamic summit, a day after host nation Qatar bowed to Arab pressure and closed an Israeli trade office in Doha.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told reporters that the ministers were awaiting "amendments to the initial text" of a joint declaration on the Palestinian cause and Intifada.
Sheikh Hamad, who is chairing the preparatory ministerial meeting, being held ahead of the ninth Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit, did not elaborate on the details of the declaration.
A political committee drew up a draft declaration Thursday calling on "member countries who have established relations with Israel ... to break these relations and end all forms of normalization."
The draft, obtained by AFP, urged OIC leaders "to abide by the Islamic boycott of Israel" and not to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to the disputed holy city of Jerusalem.
The draft echoed Palestinian demands for international protection and an inquiry into the causes of the violence.
It also backed full membership of the United Nations for a Palestinian state. The Palestinians have observer status at the UN.
OIC leaders are due to discuss later the civil war in Afghanistan, the Kashmir conflict, Kosovo and Chechnya, as well as the situation of Muslim minorities in Asia and Africa.
Sheikh Hamad said, however, that Iraq will not be on the agenda.
"I have agreed with my brothers in Kuwait and Iraq to discuss the issue with them later without broaching the subject directly during the (foreign ministers') meeting," he said.
"There is a good chance of reaching a compromise and preserving the good climate at the heart of the conference," he added.
Qatar itself announced Thursday the closure of Israel's trade office to save an Islamic summit that the tiny Gulf state is hosting after Muslim giants Saudi Arabia and Iran threatened a boycott.
A government spokesman said the closure would rally solidarity and allow the success of the November 12-14 summit of the 56-member OIC, being held under the slogan of "Peace and Development".
He did not, however, mention a total break of ties with Israel, upon which Riyadh had initially insisted.
The summit was thrown into doubt Wednesday when Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to the Islamic grouping, announced a boycott over Qatar's relations with Israel.
But the Saudi cabinet announced Friday that Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, who stands in abroad for the ailing King Fahd, will represent the kingdom at the three-day conference.
"Prince Abdullah will head the Saudi delegation at the ninth Islamic summit in Doha," the cabinet said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.
Morocco, Oman and Tunisia, which all hosted Israeli trade representatives but had no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, recently closed their offices in light of a month of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians that has left almost 200 dead, most of them Arabs.
But the United States lamented Qatar's decision.
"We would like people to hold fast with their relationships while we try to calm the violence and get back to the peace process," a senior US State Department official said as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived for talks with President Bill Clinton -- DOHA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)