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Islamic Conference Meeting Seeks Common Stance Against Terror - 2002-03-31

Foreign ministers of the Muslim world are gathering in Malaysia to forge a common stance against international terrorism. However, delegates of the Islamic Conference are also expected to deliver a stinging attack on Israel.

Malaysia's foreign minister, Syad Hamid Albar, says Muslims are disturbed by the association of their religion with terrorism, and want the Muslim viewpoint on the topic to be taken into account.

He told reporters Sunday, on the eve of the meeting, that the object of the conference is to better understand the root causes of terrorism, agree on a common definition for it and find ways to overcome it.

However, the Malaysian official made it clear that the violence between Israel and the Palestinians will be weighing heavily on the minds of delegates as the 57 members of the Islamic Conference open the meeting on Monday.

The Malaysian foreign minister said the Israeli attacks against the Palestinian headquarters in Ramallah, which he called an example of state terrorism, should be addressed. Israel ordered the military operation Friday in response to a series of suicide bombings and shooting attacks against Israelis.

The Malaysian foreign minister also added that the fight against terrorism should not be extended to other countries, a reference to reports that the US government is considering military action against countries that harbor terrorists.

The foreign ministers of Iraq and Iran, two countries that have been identified as supporting terrorism, are due to attend, as well as the Palestinian Authority's senior foreign affairs official, Farouq Kaddoumi.

Muslim leaders have condemned international terrorism, in particular since the September 11 attacks in the United States, and say it has nothing to do with the Muslim religion. But they also believe that some of the violence viewed as terrorism by the West is part of a legitimate struggle for independence or self-determination, as in the case of the Palestinians.

They say that one of the main causes of the terrorist attacks in the United States is perceived as U.S. bias in favor of Israel. Israel accuses the Palestinian Authority of encouraging terrorism through suicide bombings. The U.S. government says it is trying to be an honest broker in the stalled Middle East peace process.

The Islamic Conference has been working on a common stance on combating international terrorism for a decade. The delegates hope the three-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur will lead soon to a world-wide conference on international terrorism.