Islamic Summit Opens in Qatar
The ninth summit of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), set to be dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, opened in Qatar on Sunday.
Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, urged Muslim countries to take "resolute" action to punish Israel for its killings of Palestinians, in an address at the opening of an Islamic summit in Doha.
"Astonishingly, while the oppressed nation of Palestine, especially its youths and children, has emerged from the crucible of its struggle triumphantly, Islamic countries have yet to meet the expectations of the Ummah (Muslim world)," he warned.
Khatami, as outgoing president of the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), called for "resolute action ... at this critical juncture in defense of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."
Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, on his part, urged Islamic leaders meeting in Doha to draw up a common strategy to help the Palestinians regain their rights.
"We have to draw up a strategy that will help the Palestinian people regain their legitimate rights," Sheikh Hamad said at the opening of the ninth Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit.
"We say to the world that the Middle East conflict will not end until the withdrawal of Israel from all Palestinian territories, Golan and Lebanese territories," said Sheikh Hamad, whose country is to take over the three-year rotating presidency of the OIC from Iran at the end of the three-day summit.
The summit was to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and leaders from the 56 OIC members were expected to discuss proposals for a punitive break in relations with the Jewish state
Other speakers included UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, South African President Thabo Mbeki as current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Arab League chief Esmat Abdel Meguid.
A special session devoted to the "serious conditions" in the Palestinian territories, where more than 200 people have been killed in six weeks of clashes, almost all Palestinians, was scheduled for later Sunday.
A draft resolution to be submitted to leaders of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims "invites" Islamic countries, notably in Africa, to break with Israel for its alleged war crimes.
Twenty-six countries were to be represented by their heads of state, whereas Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Moroccan King Mohamed VI, both of whose countries have rocky ties with Qatar, were among the notable absentees.
The draft drawn up by foreign ministers calls for an "international tribunal to judge Israeli war criminals" and commits OIC states to recognize an independent Palestinian state once declared.
Held under tight security at a seafront hotel, the summit is also to debate the lingering civil war in Afghanistan, the Kashmir conflict, Kosovo and Chechnya.
Normal flights into Doha international airport resumed late Saturday after a closure of more than 12 hours during which dozens of delegation heads streamed into the tiny Gulf emirate of around 600,000 inhabitants – (AFP)
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