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Six Islamic Nations Call on Iraq to Cooperate More With UN Inspectors

Foreign ministers of six leading Islamic nations called on Iraq Thursday to show more active cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors and to do its utmost to restore regional stability. The gathering held in Istanbul is a last ditch effort by Middle Eastern nations to head off a possible war between Iraq and the United States-led forces.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the day long conference, Foreign ministers of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey warned that the spectre of war as they put it was looming large and said responsibility lay with Iraq to avoid conflict.

"We request Iraq... to demonstrate a more active approach in providing Iraq's inventory of information and material concerning her capabilities of weapons of mass destruction," the statement read out by Turkish foreign minister, Yasar Yakis said.

All of the participating countries, with the exception of Egypt, share borders with Iraq. And all fear that a war would further destabilize what is already a highly volatile region.

The joint declaration drafted after heated debate between participants also stressed the need to resolve the Iraq crisis within the framework of the United Nations. It made no reference to the United States, because in the words of Turkish foreign minister Yakis, the message of the conference was directed specifically at Iraq.

The ministers denied claims that they had discussed plans for Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein to go into exile in a third country. They also dismissed media reports that they were in favor of a military coup that would oust the Iraqi president.

Analysts say the meeting underlines Turkey's central role in the Iraq crisis, stemming from its historical links with the Middle East, its proximity to Iraq and its strategic ties to the United States.

As the NATO alliance's sole predominantly Muslim member, Turkey is expected to play a key role in the event of a war, as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War on the side of the allies. Iraq renewed calls on Turkey Thursday not to take part in a war saying conflict would harm Turkey as much as it would Iraq.