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Islamic Ministers at OIC Meeting Focus on Iraq - 2003-10-14

Islamic foreign ministers meeting in Malaysia are working on a draft to accept Iraq's U.S.-appointed interim government, but at the same time are calling for a timetable for returning power back to Iraqis.

Senior officials of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference will be issuing a draft statement that welcomes the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council into the fold of the OIC.

The draft resolution will be presented to Islamic leaders at their summit Thursday and Friday. It also calls for the United Nations to play a stronger role in rebuilding Iraq.

Over the past few days, foreign ministers have been working out divisive issues, Iraq being at the forefront. Tuesday's agreement to welcome Iraq's Governing Council seems to indicate that the group is making progress.

But Imran Waheed, a critic of the OIC who heads the British Islamic Liberation Party, says the OIC's progress may be illusory.

"The majority of Muslims I meet both in the UK and the Muslim world feel that the OIC is very much an impotent organization which has no power and which merely pays lip service to the occupation and subjugation of land such as Iraq," he said. "So I don't think the OIC has any degree of political clout."

Summit leaders failed to say on Tuesday whether or not they will send peacekeepers to Iraq to help the U.S.-led coalition, an issue that has dominated talks on the sidelines of the meetings.

So far only Turkey has agreed to send forces, but the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council is resisting the presence of Turkish troops because of tensions between Turkey and ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan canceled a planned visit to the OIC meeting because of stalled Security Council negotiations over Iraq.

The United States revised its draft resolution on Monday to include a deadline of December 15 for the handover of power to the Iraqis. OIC senior officials reacted negatively to the U.S. resolution, saying it does not give enough power to the United Nations.