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Iran's Khatami Urges Swift Election of Iraqi Government - 2003-05-28


Iran's President Mohamed Khatami has called for the quick election of an Iraqi government. Mr. Khatami made his remarks Wednesday at the opening of a three-day meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference taking place in Tehran.

Iranian President Mohamed Khatami told the meeting of Islamic foreign ministers that Muslim nations want the Iraqi people to take control of their country as soon as possible and elections are needed for that to happen.

Although Mr. Khatami did not mention the United States directly, he made clear that his government did not accept the U.S.-led coalition as the occupying powers in Iraq.

All of the 57 member states of the Islamic Conference, except Iraq, have representatives at the meeting. A spokesman for the organization said no invitation was sent to Baghdad because there was no legitimate authority running the country.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference has repeatedly urged the U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq as soon as possible.

In his speech, Mr. Khatami also condemned terrorism committed in the name of Islam. He referred to the danger of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network, but he also criticized what he called the unilateralist response to combating terrorism.

He said that the world was buffeted on two sides. On the one, he said, terrorism and fanaticism have distorted the human face of religion and on the other unilateralism has made a mockery of democracy and freedom. He said Muslim nations must keep a distance from these warring sides.

In recent days, American officials have accused Iran of harboring members of al-Qaida who were involved in suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. They also accuse Iran of meddling in post-war Iraq and of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program.

Iran denies the charges. On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said a handful of terrorist suspects are in custody and being questioned, but it was not yet clear whether they included senior al-Qaida members.

Mr. Asefi accused Washington of using double standards to fight terrorism, saying the United States had not yet dealt firmly with Iran's main opposition threat, the Iraq-based Peoples Mujahideen Militia. The group is on the State Department terrorist list.

The head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the former foreign minister of Morocco, Abdulwahed Belkeziz, said threats made against member states, like Iran, must be rejected. He also called for qualified support of the road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.