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Muslim nations to hold Mideast talks in Pakistan 26 février 2007

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Religion, Turkey / Turquie.
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Agence France Presse — English, February 23, 2007 Friday

Rana Jawad, Islamabad

The foreign ministers of seven key Muslim nations will meet in Pakistan this weekend to discuss a joint strategy to end the worsening turmoil in the Middle East, officials said Friday.

The conference on Sunday will focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the ongoing strife in Iraq and tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme, Pakistani foreign ministry officials said.

The ministers from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt and Indonesia will prepare the ground for a summit of their leaders to be hosted in Saudi Arabia by King Abdullah at a later date.

The secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference is also due to attend.

« The foreign ministers are meeting to prepare for a summit that His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will hold, » foreign office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told AFP.

« The meeting here will consider the Palestinian crisis, the situation in Iraq and the Iran-US tensions, » Aslam said.

The ministers are expected to arrive in Islamabad late Saturday for the conference which will be opened by Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

They will call on President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the « war on terror, » who has frequently warned that the turmoil in the Middle East could spread outside the region.

Last month Musharraf paid hectic visits to all the countries involved in Sunday’s meeting, as well as to Iran, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, as part of a plan to find an Islamic solution to the Mideast violence.

Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority will not be attending the conference in Islamabad, but officials said they would be kept fully informed of the outcome of the deliberations.

« Iran has its own specific position on the Israeli-Palestinian row, » said a government official on condition of anonymity.

The official said Musharraf’s initiative « has been prompted by a situation which is developing very seriously in the region and if not tackled will throw the whole region into utter turmoil. »

The conference is also part of an attempt to convey a message to world powers that this region could not afford another conflict against the backdrop of growing US-Iran tensions, the official added.

Senior Pakistani officials privately say they see the appointment of a naval officer as the commander of the US Armed Forces in the region as an indication of growing tilt towards a possible strike on Iran.

« There is a need to do something because the situation is just slipping out of control, » the official said.

« This group of countries want to reinitiate the stalled peace process in Middle East. They also want to send out a message that this region cannot afford another conflict. »

Analyst and former Pakistani foreign secretary Tanvir Ahmed Khan however warned that the lack of key regional players at Sunday’s conference would hamstring attempts to resolve the Mideast situation.

« If the purpose is to ease conflicts, then to hold a meeting without Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority, frankly, is like staging Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, » he said.

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