AFP: Foreign ministers of Islamic nations gather on Monday in Baku for a meeting expected to be dominated by the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and in Iraq. by Hassen Fakih
DUBAI, June 18, 2006 (AFP) – Foreign ministers of Islamic nations gather on Monday in Baku for a meeting expected to be dominated by the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme, as well as developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and in Iraq.
“The Palestine question and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the current situation in Iraq” will head the agenda of the meeting, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said in a statement ahead of the meeting.
The meeting will also address “cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the statement said in reference to the strained relations between Iran and the West over Iran’s programme of nuclear enrichment.
OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu visited Tehran in early June and stressed, following a meeting with firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “Iran’s right to own nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.”
The same week, he traveled to Moscow, which has so far opposed the threat of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
The OIC chief has remained tight-lipped about his discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which the OIC said focused on “issues of common interest,” but the Iran question was believed to be the main topic.
The OIC meeting comes as international pressure on Tehran appears to be easing following US indications that Iran’s reaction to recent proposals has been “positive”.
A proposed package of incentives includes the lifting of some US trade sanctions and international support for the building of new light-water reactors in Iran. It was made on June 6 by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany.
The easing of pressure on Iran might spare the ministers of the OIC’s 57 countries having to choose between supporting fellow member Iran or accepting the Western push to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran’s neighbours have expressed fears of the environmental hazards of Tehran’s nuclear programme, mainly fears of leakage from the reactor being built by the Russians on the Gulf shores of Bushehr.
Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said during a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh last week that the six GCC states feared a potential “radioactive leak from an Iranian nuclear power plant, which could cause an enormous ecological catastrophe by polluting the waters of the Gulf.”
The OIC statement gave no details on exactly what issues would be raised in Baku with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to Iraq, and officials could not be reached for comment.
Among other issues expected to be discussed in Baku is the crisis that erupted over the publishing of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed in the European press and elsewhere, said the OIC.
“The crisis over the cartoons that are offenive to Islam… and Islamophobia are part of the most important topics to be discussed by foreign ministers,” the Jeddah-based organisation added.
The ministers will also discuss “economic problems facing less-developed Islamic countries, in addition to… (ways to) establish an Islamic common market”.