TEHRAN,May 29th,2003 (United Press International via COMTEX),
The 30th gathering of foreign ministers and representatives from Organization of Islamic Conference kicked off in Tehran Wednesday in the presence of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The OIC, an umbrella group of Muslim nations from around the world, focused on the situation in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the global campaign against terrorism, IRNA reported.
During their four-day talks, the 57 member states, except Iraq, are also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, the issue of disarmament, the status of Muslim minorities in non-member states and Khatami's pet topic ? "a dialogue among civilizations."
In his inaugural speech, Khatami proposed a "coalition for peace based on justice instead of efforts to coax countries into war."
He said that to root out war and fight deprivation, ways should be found to fight despotism and defend the independence of countries and nations.
"Today, many Muslim countries suffer from the chronic problem of underdevelopment," Khatami said. "This is particularly acute among the Muslims in such countries as Afghanistan or Somalia which have suffered civil war for long periods."
Referring to Iraq, he urged the end of what he called occupation of the country and the establishment of an "Iraqi government by the Iraqi people."
Among the participants are Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher, Arab League chief Amr Moussa and Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople, whose predominantly Christian country has a large Muslim minority.
Ople is expected to press the Philippines' bid for permanent observer status, which is currently held by the former Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The OIC helped broker a peace deal between Manila and the MILF in 1995, with the rebels dropping their independence bid to settle for a limited self-rule.
Speaking on the eve of the meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi urged the OIC to change its approach and focus on the "basic questions" of the Islamic world.
The OIC cannot "confront problems by using traditional and old methods" and there is need to "bring about a serious change to the approach of the Organization of the Islamic Conference," Kharrazi told OIC Secretary Abdulwahed Belkeziz, IRNA reported.
Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara, who is attending the meeting, told reporters the gathering should come up with a "unanimous and transparent" stance against U.S. allegations, which he said, are not restricted to a certain country but rather target the whole Islamic world.
The meeting is a second-ranking decision-making organ of the body established by the Islamic states in 1969.
The first meeting of the OIC foreign ministers was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1971 and its 29th gathering in Khartoum, Sudan, last year.
Qatar is now the chairman of the Jeddah-based OIC and Malaysia will assume the next presidency of the body later this year.
Webmaster's Note :
Somalia is represented by a delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the TNG Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim (Yusuf Dheeg) who arrived in Tehran early yesterday morning.