The United Nations' Special Envoy for Iraq appealed on behalf of the U.N. Secretary General Monday for support for Iraq's new interim government. U.N. Special Envoy Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi conveyed Kofi Annan's request to some 57 Islamic Foreign Ministers gathered in Turkey's commercial capital, Istanbul.
Addressing members of the predominantly Muslim grouping known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, Mr. Brahimi said it was in the interest of the broader Islamic world that Iraq's experiment with democratic self rule succeed. His words were echoed by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who also addressed the inaugural session of the three day conference.
Observers say it is unlikely the support sought by either the United Nations or the United States will come in the form of troop deployment from any of the OIC member states. Bangladeshi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA their country recently turned down an informal U.S. request for troops for Iraq,
As the conference's host, Turkey. a key U.S. ally in the war against global terror, is expected to put its stamp on the three day gathering, urging moderation and calling for greater democracy in the Islamic world. But Turkey, too, has made clear that it is unwilling to send its forces to help the U.S.-led coalition stabilize Iraq.
OIC foreign ministers are calling for a speedy transfer of full sovereignty to the Iraqi people and emphasize the need to preserve the territorial unity of Iraq. OIC members, Iran, Syria and Turkey, which share borders with Iraq, all express deep concern over the possible break- up of the country into three separate, Kurdish, Shia and Sunni entities, should the Iraqi experiment with democratic self rule fail. All three countries are especially worried that the emergence of a Kurdish state in Iraq would fan separatist sentiment among their own Kurdish minorities.
The conference is likely to issue a harsh condemnation of Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza strip and urge members to continue to boycott all Israeli goods. Turkey has long been criticized by Arab nations for its strong military and economic ties with Israel. In recent weeks, however, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken out against the policies of his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon, accusing the Jewish state of engaging in "terror" against the Palestinians.
Such talk may help bolster Turkey's chances of getting its candidate elected as the next Secretary General of the OIC. But OIC officials say Turkey faces stiff opposition for the post from one of the other contenders, Malaysia. Bangladesh, which is also vying for the position, was reportedly under heavy pressure to withdraw its candidate.