Reuters on Wednesday, February 26, 2003
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Leaders of Islamic countries Wednesday threw their support behind an initiative by France and Germany to avert war on Iraq and said they were considering using their oil to exert pressure on those in favor of an attack.
The group also demanded Iraq comply with all United Nations resolutions to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, including the latest deadline to start destroying its longer-range missiles by March 1.
“We would like to see that Iraq is not invaded by foreign forces,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a news conference after a hastily called meeting of Islamic leaders who had gathered in Kuala Lumpur for a two-day summit earlier in the week of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
“Iraq should abide completely by the requests of inspectors,” he said.
Participants praised a resolution presented at the United Nations this week by France and Germany that suggests giving the U.N. weapons inspectors another four months to do their work in Iraq.
“We should make common cause with countries that are against war in Iraq, namely European countries such as France, Germany, Belgium and also Russia,” Mahathir said.
“I hope by making a common cause with them we will be able to exert some influence on the United States,” he said.
A resolution lodged with the United Nations Monday by the United States, Britain and Spain says Iraq has missed a “final opportunity” to disarm peacefully and avoid war.
With the European resolution supported by two permanent members and signs several revolving members of the Security Council may not support him, President Bush has said war might go ahead with or without a U.N. resolution.
In their NAM summit that ended Tuesday, the mainly developing countries urged Washington to give peace a chance and pledged support for U.N. processes.
OIL AS A WEAPON
Mahathir acknowledged that some differences existed among the 49 countries attending the Islamic meeting, but all agreed on considering using their oil resources as a weapon to exert pressure on those in favor of war even though this would hurt many poorer countries, he said.
“There has been a suggestion that we look at using our oil wells in order to exert pressure,” Mahathir said.
“How this can be done is something else, but there is a consensus as to the need for us to think about these things,” he said of a grouping that includes such oil producers as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait and Qatar.
“Oil is a double-edged sword,” Mahathir said. “If (the price of) oil goes up many of the countries of the South are going to suffer… This double-edged weapon may hurt us more than it may hurt the other parties.”
But even as the Islamic states voiced their complete agreement at least to consider using oil to exert pressure, they did not ease their demands on Iraq to comply with U.N. demands.
“Iraq should destroy to show its sincerity,” Mahathir said when asked about the U.N. deadline for Baghdad to begin dismantling its longer-range missiles.
“Anything that the U.N. asks Iraq to do, Iraq should do,” he said.
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has demanded Iraq start destroying its longer-range missiles by March 1 and he is due to present a report to the Security Council around March 7.
Islamic nations are to meet again for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Doha, Qatar, on March 4-5. Iraq has voiced opposition because Qatar is serving as one of the major bases for U.S. troops massing in the Middle East.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, King Mohammed of Morocco, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam were among Islamic leaders who joined Iraqi Information Minister Mohamed Said al-Sahaf for the Wednesday morning meeting.