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PRESS CONFERENCE BY ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC CONFERENCE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

5 October 2007

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference today, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that any military action against Iran would lead to a disaster that would leave no nation untouched.

“If, god forbid, any military action takes place,” he said, “that would be the beginning of a big disaster for everybody, and nobody in the world would be immune from this disaster.”

While he said that it was the OIC’s position that all countries had the right to develop peaceful nuclear facilities for their own benefit under the international commitments of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), its preference was for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

“We hope for a free world -- a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said, highlighting the example of Central Asian countries, which had abandoned their nuclear weapons and created a nuclear-free zone. The OIC hoped that pattern would be repeated in the Middle East, with no exceptions. “When there are double standards, when there are different norms, we lose the validity, the credibility of these norms,” he added.

He said the current issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme should be settled peacefully through dialogue. That dialogue should be between Iran and the IAEA. He called recent news that Iran would provide responses to questions from the IAEA a “step forward”.

He warned that the relationship between Islam and the West was poisoned by radical groups and emphasized the need to cooperate. “If we are hijacked by these radical groups -- on both sides of the line -- we are going to clash,” he said, adding that the clash would benefit no one. “Everybody will lose,” he said.

Mr. Ihsanoglu also highlighted the OIC’s work over the past few weeks, saying that the organization was undergoing a transformation and entering a new phase in its cooperation with the United Nations. Among the results of the change, it would be establishing an office in Iraq and setting up a department for humanitarian assistance it its general secretariat.

Other items on the organization’s agenda included Palestinian issues, Lebanon, Iraq, Darfur and Somalia. Regarding Palestine, he said there was an urgent need for intensification of efforts by the Quartet, the international community and the Security Council to revive the peace process, resume negotiations between the two sides and implement the Road Map to end the occupation of the Palestinian Territory and realize the two-State solution.

On Iraq, he said the OIC emphasized the right of the Iraqi people to freely determine their own political future and to effectively control their own natural resources. It also stressed the need for non-interference in Iraq’s affairs and condemned all sectarian activities and any attempt to divide Iraq on a sectarian basis.

Responding to a question on the role the OIC was playing in fostering international intercultural and interreligious dialogue, he said a major concern was easing tension. He said the OIC was also using different political instruments to do that -- including shunning terrorism, bringing people together at conventions, and, perhaps most importantly, using the religious instrument, he said. For the latter, the OIC had been addressing the ways radical groups quote verses from the Koran and use quotes from the Prophet out of context, in vague ways or by giving it explanations that are refuted by mainstream scholars. He pointed to the organization’s recent efforts after a group of Koreans were taken hostages in Afghanistan. In that case, a political statement was issued in conjunction with statements from the International Islamic Fiqh Academy that said no one had the right to abduct and kill someone else.

He also highlighted the 2006 conference sponsored by the OIC that brought Sunni and Shiite leaders from Iraq together and resulted in the Mecca Declaration, which said that nothing in religion justified the kind of destruction that was occurring in Iraq.

Responding to a question on the increasing gap between the West and the Islamic world, he said there were different angles to solving this problem, but the solution should start with dialogue. He acknowledged that he had been involved in high-level dialogue between Islam and the West and among Islam, Christianity and Judaism since the 1980s, and knew that the past 40 years of dialogue had not borne fruit. The reason was because it was not a real dialogue. “It was two monologues in opposite directions,” he said. Every side would talk, the other side would talk again and there was no joint understanding developed and shared by everybody.”

What was needed today was historical reconciliation of the type that had occurred between Jews and the Christians over the last few decades back. “They managed this and I think the relation between the Jewish world and Christianity has been developing in a very good manner,” he said. “We need to do the same between Islam and Christianity”. The Alliance of Civilizations was part of that effort.

Radicalism in the Muslim world should also be reduced, he added. Internally that meant addressing underdevelopment, poverty, social injustice from one side. On the international plane, it meant addressing unresolved issues in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, which the radical movements used to enforce their agenda.

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For information media • not an official record



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