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Islamic Conference Endorses Iraqi Government

Associated Press
June 15, 2004

The new Iraqi interim government received a solid boost Tuesday when the country's neighbors and Egypt endorsed the U.S.-backed leadership, a move that could help stem an increasingly violent insurgency. Hours later, the political committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Islamic organization, unanimously approved a resolution backing Iraq's interim government and calling for help in rebuilding the war-shattered nation, a delegate who attended the discussions said.

The resolution is expected to be formally declared at the closing of the three-day foreign ministers' meeting on Wednesday, the delegate added, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. The decision by bordering states and the OIC support is certain to distance the interim Iraqi government from its predecessor, which was branded a U.S. creation. That is crucial as the interim government faces Iraqi insurgents who have been battling U.S. forces and the U.S.-backed Governing Council that took power after Saddam Hussein's ouster last year.

Delegates to the OIC said there was widespread support for backing the interim Iraqi government until elections could be held but added little enthusiasm over any calls to send peacekeepers to help U.S.-led forces in Iraq. Most governments in Muslim countries were strongly against the war. The meeting of Iraq's neighbors plus Egypt came on the sidelines of the OIC meeting. Iraq's neighbors and Egypt welcomed the planned transfer of sovereignty and wished the new administration success.

The interim government assembled by U.S., U.N. and Iraqi officials last month is trying to establish its own legitimacy as it prepares to take sovereignty on June 30 while the U.S.-led multinational force remains in the country. The insurgency has turned increasingly violent in recent months as the date for the handover of power nears and Iraqi officials cooperating with the Americans have frequently been the targets. A statement issued after the meeting of Iraq's neighbors also stressed support for Iraqis "in their progress on the path toward building fully legitimate and representative national institutions."

Foreign ministers and representatives from Iraq and its neighbors — Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — plus Egypt as well as U.N. Iraq envoy Lakhdar Brahimi attended the meeting. The statement welcomed last week's U.N. resolution on Iraq, which endorsed the transfer of sovereignty and authorized the multinational force. The statement also stressed the need for the United Nations to play a "central role" in assisting Iraqis in preparing for elections and rebuilding their institutions. It added that foreign forces in Iraq should "remain strictly" under the U.N. mandate and called on foreign forces to abide by international law. "All is well," said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari as he walked out of the meeting. That's a far cry from a November meeting of the neighbors in Damascus, Syria, which Zebari boycotted receiving a late invitation.

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