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'One step from clash of civilizations'

The New Anatolian with AP | August 4 2006

The Muslim world's biggest bloc on Thursday demanded an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, and warned that Israel's offensive would stoke Muslim radicalism and breed new terrorists.

Key leaders in the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), including ones from Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, met at an extraordinary meeting yesterday in Malaysia and warned the world of their fears of a growing crisis between the Muslim world and the West amid Israel's military offensive.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leads the world's most populous Muslim nation, said the turmoil could bring the international community "just one step away from that ultimate nightmare: a clash of civilizations."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that there can be no justification for Israel's military offensive and in fact there will be no winner of this war.

Erdogan also expressed his fear that the fire in the Middle East has the potential to set off a clash of civilizations.

The Turkish prime minister did not hide his uneasiness at the relatively low level of participation at the meeting by Arab countries.

In his speech at the meeting, Erdogan stressed that, with the Lebanon crisis, the OIC faces a historic moment of truth.

"Those who are not touched today should not think that they are untouchable," Erdogan stressed. "They could face the same situation. Starting today, we should determine our attitude and take steps."

"Long-term regional and global efforts are necessary," he continued. "Turkey condemns every type of terrorism. Turkey believes that acts of terrorism cannot be considered innocent. After all these painful experiences in the region, everybody should understand that ending the malice can only be possible by draining the swamp that causes it. Peace cannot be reached through violence. Those who turn conflicts into a blood feud are dragging the world into chaos."

At the sidelines of the meeting, the Turkish prime minister held bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Erdogan told reporters that Aziz and he also discussed possible participation in a Lebanese peacekeeping force, and underlined that they had similar views.

"This force should certainly be created under the UN umbrella and based on the consent of the related parties," Erdogan said. "Its tasks should not include combat or supporting one of the parties while opposing the other. Turkey has been weighing contributing to this stability force provided that a cease-fire is achieved and should appropriate political conditions be prepared. We are ready for this."

OIC expresses support for Lebanese resistance

The OIC issued a declaration after the emergency summit that voiced solidarity with the Lebanese people "in their legitimate and heroic resistance against the Israeli aggression."

The leaders demanded that the UN Security Council "fulfill its responsibility ... without any further delay by deciding on and enforcing an immediate and unconditional comprehensive cease-fire,."

"We hold Israel responsible for the loss of lives and suffering ... and demand that Israel compensate (Lebanon) and its people for the losses sustained resulting from Israeli aggression," the declaration added.

Malaysia, which chairs the OIC, rallied presidents, prime ministers and policy-makers of 17 key Muslim nations for one-day talks to articulate their opposition to Israel's attacks.

Iranian president: Israel is illegitimate

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Middle East would be better off "without the existence of the Zionist regime," saying Israel was trying to "plunder the wealth
in the region in order to dominate." Israel "is an illegitimate regime, there is no legal basis for its existence."

He accused the United States of trying to use Israel to control the Middle East and its oil wealth, saying the attacks in Lebanon were "a pre-planned program."

"Today the Americans are after the greater Middle East," Ahmadinejad said. "The Zionist regime is used to reach this objective. The sole existence of this regime is for invasion and attack."

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