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Muslim Leaders Call for Lebanon Cease-Fire, Peacekeeping Force


Muslim leaders meeting in Malaysia have demanded an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon, as the United Nations debates a formula for ending the crisis.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh Thursday called on fellow members of the Organization of Islamic Conference, or OIC, to issue a collective condemnation of Israel's actions.

"We're calling for comprehensive ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops and also to establish an international judiciary commission to investigate the criminal actions committed by Israel, and also the return of the displaced Lebanese to their homes and villages," said Fawzi.

But the chairman of the 56-country OIC, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, says it is time for the Muslim world to go beyond mere statements. He says Muslim nations must play a greater role in ending three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants. He said Malaysia is ready to send peacekeepers into southern Lebanon under the United Nations, and urged other predominately Muslim countries to do the same.

However, the U.N. is still struggling to reach an agreement on whether to send a peacekeeping force into the region. A meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the issue has twice been postponed because of disagreements between the United States and France on the details of any deployment.

The United States, Britain and Israel say a ceasefire cannot be called until a peacekeeping force is in place, the Lebanese government reclaims full authority of the southern part of the country, and Hezbollah is disarmed.

France and the OIC members want the reverse - a ceasefire first to stop mounting death and destruction, followed by the deployment of U.N. forces, and political progress toward a durable peace in the region.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Sinioria, meanwhile, told the OIC meeting that the fighting has killed more than 900 people and wounded 3,000, with a third of the casualties children under 12. Mr. Siniora said in a video message to the meeting that a quarter of the population, or one million people, had been displaced.

Some officials at the meeting in Malaysia warned that the international community's inaction over Lebanon is adding to the radicalization of Muslims, and could lead to more violence around the world.

The fiercely anti-Israel Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended the one-day OIC meeting. Iran, and Syria, are Hezbollah's major backers - but neither has played any role so far in resolving the crisis.

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