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The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Many have stopped short of cutting ties with Israel"
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Sunday, 12 November, 2000, 12:50 GMT
Muslim leaders condemn Israel
Yasser Arafat and Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
The Palestinians are taking centre stage at the summit
Leaders of the world's estimated 1.2bn Muslims have begun a summit in the Gulf state of Qatar with speeches condemning Israel and calling for stronger action in defence of the Palestinians.

More than 200 people, most of them Palestinian, have been killed in Arab-Israeli violence since September.

The three-day Islamic Conference Organisation (OIC) summit was opened by Iran's President Mohammed Khatami, the outgoing OIC chairman.

Our people are now more than ever determined to pursue their struggle

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Mr Khatami called on member states to do more to support the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

"Islamic countries have yet to meet the expectations of the Muslim world," he said. "We take pride in the heroic resistance of the children of the Muslim and Arab nation against suppression and bullying by the terrorist, racist regime."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told delegates his people were "more determined than ever" to pursue their struggle.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan also addressed the summit. He urged the leaders not to promote violence and hatred.

Compromise statement

The OIC summit is held every three years - the last one was in Tehran - but this year's is different.

Draft Resolution key points
Muslim states urged to cut ties with Israel
Proposed international tribunal to judge alleged Israeli war criminals
Muslim states to recognise independent Palestinian state once declared
Muslim states to support case for UN protection force for Palestinians
Muslims from the all over the world are appalled by what they see as the brutal Israeli suppression of Palestinian demonstrators demanding an end to Israeli occupation of Arab land, including East Jerusalem.

The BBC's Frank Gardner in Doha says Muslims are expecting their governments to act decisively.

But he says if the watered-down draft communique being presented to the summit is anything to go by, then many ordinary Muslims are in for a disappointment.

The statement, which was hammered out by Islamic foreign ministers over the last few days, stops short of demanding an end to all Muslim government ties to Israel.

Instead, it "invites" OIC members to break off relations with the Jewish state. So far Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and others have declined to do so.

Threatened boycott

The wording of the statement is a compromise between the total break demanded by radical states like Iran and Syria on the one hand, and the practical concerns of more moderate countries like Egypt and Jordan, which both have peace treaties with Israel.

Qatar Foreign Minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber al Thani
Qatar's foreign minister announced the closure of an Israeli trade office
Only a few days ago, the summit was on the brink of collapse before it had even convened.

The Qatari hosts came under intense pressure to close down a tiny Israeli trade office that has been based in the capital Doha for the past four years.

One by one, Islamic countries led by Saudi Arabia, were threatening to boycott the summit unless Qatar expelled the Israelis.

Qatar refused until the last minute, when it narrowly averted a political disaster by finally announcing the office's closure on Thursday.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Middle East
Qatar cuts links with Israel
06 Nov 00 | Middle East
Emir of Bahrain boycotts Islamic summit
02 Nov 00 | Middle East
Hi-tech outlets for Arab anger
19 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Qatar
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