PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia -- Delegates to the world's largest gathering of Islamic nations opened their biggest meeting in three years yesterday with calls for the eviction of US troops from Iraq and fears that the recent Israeli airstrike in Syria could provoke a wider Mideast war.
The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council also sought support for its effort to prevent the deployment of Turkish peacekeepers to its territory.
"We don't like to have any peacekeeping troops from neighboring countries because it might cause problems inside Iraq," said Riyadh al-Fadhli, an Iraqi delegate attending preparatory meetings for this week's summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. "The situation now in Iraq is very sensitive. It cannot take more difficulties and more dangerous situations inside Iraq."
The gathering of the 57 countries in the Islamic Conference, the world's biggest Muslim political group, is its first regular summit since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, brought terrorism to the center of world politics.
Divisions over Iraq threatened to prevent Islamic leaders from finding a unified voice to address the widespread feeling that the war on terrorism has turned into a war against Muslims.
Senior officials opened discussions with a prayer yesterday in Malaysia's new administrative capital, Putrajaya. They will lay out positions for their foreign ministers and national leaders to consider later this week, ranging from Israel's airstrike on Syria to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
But Iraq took center stage.
Musa Braiza, head of the Jordanian delegation, said a resolution would acknowledge that positive change was underway in Iraq but would emphasize the need for full restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.
Abdelouahed Belkaziz, secretary general of the conference, said Islamic nations "are still under the strain of extremely difficult challenges and unprecedented threats to our countries' independence, sovereignty, [and] security." Priority should go to "the eviction of foreign forces from Iraq, allowing the United Nations to administer Iraqi affairs [as a] prelude to restoration of Iraq's independence and to the rebuilding," he said.