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Muslim Countries Meet to Stem Violence in Lebanon


The Malaysian foreign ministry says officials from predominantly Islamic countries will urge the United Nations to demand an unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon and deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force that must include Muslim troops.

The call is supposed to come Thursday in Putrajaya, Malaysia, at an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference - or OIC - the world's largest grouping of predominately Muslim countries.

The meeting comes as the U.N. Security Council is to consider whether to send a U.N. peacekeeping force into southern Lebanon.

Chair of the meeting, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, says there must be greater Muslim involvement in resolving the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah Islamic militants in Lebanon.

"I think it would be a mistake when you want to settle the Middle East issue … you invite only Middle East countries. I think the OIC should be engaged. I think some members of the OIC should be engaged in the talks," he said.

Efforts to end three weeks of fighting have largely involved the United States, Britain, the European Union, the United Nations, Israel and Lebanon.

The OIC counts Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh in Asia, Senegal and Egypt in Africa, and Turkey, among its 56-members. Iran and Syria - Hezbollah's major backers - will also attend Thursday's meeting.

On Wednesday, influential former Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, blamed the United States and some European governments for the Mideast violence due to their staunch support for Israel.

He called for a boycott on using the U.S. dollar and British pound - even if it would result in global economic chaos - to end what he says is "collusion" between the U.S., Europe and Israel.

Mr. Mahathir has been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and often criticizes Israel and the West.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she thinks a cease-fire could be reached within days. But in Israel Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his country would not stop its offensive in Lebanon, until an international peacekeeping force is in place and has a mandate to enforce U.N. resolutions backing Hezbollah's disarmament.

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