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Francophone Summit Opens in Beirut with Theme of 'Dialogue Between Civilizations' - 2002-10-18


Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika opened the 55-nation summit of French-speaking states in the Lebanese capital Friday, cautioning Islamic extremists represent only a small fraction of the Muslim population.

The ninth regular Francophone summit opened amid tight security. The event brought together prime ministers and heads of state from 41 French-speaking countries, along with several thousand delegates and journalists. The theme of the Francophone summit this year is "a dialogue between civilizations."

Algerian President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, addressed the assembly, telling delegates that he hoped French, once the language of colonization in Africa, has now become a "language of brotherhood and dialogue."

Mr. Bouteflika says that, "despite the outpouring of sympathy" from his country and elsewhere for the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Americans need to be reminded that "the extremist perpetrators represent only a small minority of Muslims."

He told the delegates Algeria was, "hoping for a peaceful conclusion to the Iraqi crisis," as well as a just resolution to what he called "the dangerous Middle East powder-keg."

Summit participants met for a closed door session later in the afternoon, and delegates were expected to begin selection of a successor to the organization's secretary-general, Boutros Boutros Ghali.

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