Islamic Nations' Officials Meet Today in KL
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Foreign ministers and senior officials from Muslim countries began arriving yesterday in Kuala Lumpur for a four-day conference expected to discuss struggles by Muslims in Kashmir, Chechnya, and the Southern Philippines.
The meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which begins today, will also debate ways to counter Western stereotypes that brand Islamic nations as backward and in constant conflict, organizers say.
Conference host, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, called on the group to remain united, saying members should stop competing with each other over being more Islamic.
"Unity is wanting ... too wanting. We are good in saying that we are all Muslim brothers but only pay lip service," he told reporters yesterday.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar has said the 56-nation body would adopt resolutions on Kashmir and Chechnya, where Muslim rebels are battling to create independent nations.
"The resolution on Chechnya will call for the OIC recognition of the sovereignty of Russia over the state of Chechnya, but for the conflict there to be resolved through peaceful means," he said.
On Kashmir, the conference is focused on the escalation of hostilities between predominantly Hindu India, which is not represented at the meeting, and Pakistan, an OIC member. Both are armed with nuclear weapons.
The two came close to a full-scale war last year over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between them by a ceasefire line from previous wars.
The insurgency in the Southern Philippines, which caught world attention after a kidnapping of foreign tourists and workers from the Malaysian diving resort of Sipadan, will also figure in conference deliberations.
One hostage, a Malaysian, was released over the weekend by rebels of the Abu Sayyaf group, which is demanding independence for the Muslimdominated region from the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.
The rebels are still holding three Germans, two French, two Finns, two South Africans, a Lebanese, eight other Malaysians and two Filipinos they seized April 23 from Sipadan and brought to Jolo island in the Philippines.
A committee comprising Somalia, Senegal, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia will be set up to seek a peaceful settlement of the insurgency in the Philippine province of Mindanao, Syed Hamid said.
A representative of the less-radical Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the Muslims in Mindanao, who call themselves Bangsamoro, depend on the OIC for help.
The meeting will be opened by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has used such forums to attack the West and criticize globalization and will be seeking, as host, to burnish his Islamic credentials.
Mahathir's ruling UMNO lost ground in parliamentary elections last year to an opposition party that aims to impose Islamic rule over Muslim Malays, the nation's largest ethnic group. Mahathir's party has traditionally represented their interests.
MANILA (AFP) - Representatives of the Philippines' largest Muslim separatist guerrilla group failed to show up for talks with government negotiators seeking an interim peace agreement yesterday, officials said.
Chief government negotiator Edgardo Batenga said earlier Manila had submitted a draft of a proposed "interim agreement"' with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiators to allow the two sides to continue working on a long-term political settlement after a June 30 deadline.
However, MILF representatives failed to attend the scheduled negotiations in Cagayan de Oro City yesterday. One rebel spokesman said the MILF chairman had not yet given his official signal to proceed with the talks. …