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Muslim Leaders Meet To Discuss Middle East Peace

  • Benjamin Sand

Foreign Ministers from seven Muslim nations met in Islamabad to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East. The conflict over Palestine as well as violence in Iraq and the growing tensions between Iran and the United States dominated the talks. VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The one-day meeting brought together foreign ministers from Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey.

Ekmeleddin Ihssanoglu, the secretary general of the 57 member-Organization of the Islamic Conference also attended the conference.

During his opening remarks, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz underlined the need to resolve the Palestinian conflict to help stabilize the Middle East.

"Durable peace in the Middle East demands an honorable solution of the Palestinian issue based on justice, equity, and realism, which must be in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," he said.

Pakistan does not officially recognize Israel, but held public talks with the Jewish State in 2005. Observers say those talks may help President Musharraf in his latest efforts to help resolve tensions in the Middle East.

Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf initially proposed a so-called peace summit during a series of trips in recent weeks to key Islamic nations, including Iran.

Iranian officials did not attend Sunday's conference and the meeting ended without any specific plans or date for the proposed summit, which will reportedly be held in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said both the United States and Iran need to help ease tensions over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

"It is vital that all issues be resolved through diplomacy and there must be no resort to use of force," he said. "There is a need for de-escalation and confrontation in the Gulf region. All countries must work towards that objective."

In a written statement released after the meeting, the joint delegation also expressed concern over the ongoing violence in Iraq and urged the Iraqi government to "make all efforts to achieve national reconciliation."

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. Pakistani officials have repeatedly argued that conflicts in the Middle East are fueling radicalism throughout the Muslim world.

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