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Muslim Leader Urges Diplomacy with Iran


The chief of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference says the West's showdown with Iran over its nuclear program should be resolved through diplomacy. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu spoke about the issue with foreign correspondents in London.

In a wide-ranging news conference, O.I.C. Secretary General Ihsanoglu said that what he describes as "Western double standards" are to blame for Muslim anger over several issues. says a Danish newspaper's decision to publish cartoons critical of the Prophet Muhammad, but not others lampooning Jesus Christ, is an example of what he means.

On the question of the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, Ihsanoglu says diplomacy has not been exhausted, and he warns against a military solution.

"We don't like to see a new conflict in the Middle East. We have enough, and I should say, enough is enough," he said. "Any new spark in the Middle East would be really disastrous for everybody."

The O.I.C. chief says Iran deserves the benefit of the doubt when it says it only wants nuclear power for civilian purposes.

"We are against proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said. "I understand that Iran, officially, has said that 'we are not for nuclear weapons.' And, we take their word for that."

The United States has accused Iran of secretly working on a nuclear weapons program, and has been urging the United Nations Security Council to demand Tehran halt its nuclear enrichment activities and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Turning to the subject of Iraq, the O.I.C secretary general says it is unfortunate that, three months after the general election, a government still has not been formed. He expresses hope that Iraq is not headed for civil war.

"We should stop any sectarianism in Iraq, any sectarianism built on religious grounds," he added. "It's a pity we have started the 21st Century with sectarianism in Iraq."

On the status of Muslims in Britain, Ihsanoglu says, they are better off than most Muslims in other European countries. He condemns the suicide bombings by four British-born Muslims in London last July, and urges continued investigation to determine who masterminded those attacks.

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