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Islamic Conference Grapples with Definition of 'Terrorism' - 2002-04-02

Delegates to an Islamic Conference have drafted a declaration pledging to work with the international community to combat terrorism. But an un-official version of the document indicates they would prefer the United Nations define terrorism.

Malaysia Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar expressed satisfaction with the conference, saying delegates have achieved their objectives.

"We discussed on every aspect, but we have not come up with a final definition of terrorism. We have just described the areas that we should look at. We have recommended the establishment of a ministerial committee to look into the question of defining international terrorism so that it will satisfy the international efforts," Mr. Albar said.

The Malaysian foreign minister said it was presumptuous to define the term while the same effort is going on at the United Nations.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad opened the conference Monday, suggesting that terrorism be defined as any attack against civilians, including Palestinian suicide bombings. But many delegates opposed this proposal, saying Muslim countries must completely support the Palestinian cause.

Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Karazi told reporters the violence between Palestinians and Israelis is different from terrorism.

"The difference is that in Palestine, the lands of these people who are committing suicide have been occupied, so in general the resistance is a legitimate one, to resist against occupation. It is quite different from the terrorist attack on New York that was condemned by everybody, including Iran," the Iranian foreign minister said.

The draft declaration says Muslim countries oppose any attempt to link terrorism to the Palestinian struggle or to Islamic states, but it pledges that Muslim nations will work with the international community to combat terrorism.

Delegates are to adopt the final document Wednesday at the close of the three-day meeting.