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OIC Emergency Meeting to Focus on Iraq, West Bank Settlements - 2004-04-15

Malaysia will host an emergency meeting of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference to talk about recent developments in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat asked for the emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference after President George Bush recognized Israel's claim to West Bank settlements, which are disputed by the Palestinians. A senior official of the OIC says the worsening situation in Iraq also will be high on the agenda.

Malaysia is currently chairman of the OIC, the world's largest Islamic organization. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who is also chairman of the OIC, says he will push forward the meeting originally scheduled for May fourth because of the new developments.

A date for the emergency meeting has not been set.

Joseph Liow, a professor at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, says the emergency meeting is significant.

"It is obviously symbolic in the sense that it is at least an attempt to show that the Muslim world is trying to do something, and this also ties in with this general dissatisfaction experienced throughout the Muslim world, which is getting more and more intense, in relation to American policy in Iraq and Israeli policy."

But Mr. Liow adds that despite this show of solidarity, he does not think the OIC can influence either situation. "I do not see the OIC as being the organization which would play a significant role in sorting that out [the problems in Iraq and Middle East]," he said.

Malaysia's foreign minister says the goal of the meeting is an exchange of views from the 57-member group, including the role of the United Nations in Iraq and the Middle East.