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Non-Aligned Nations Urge Iraq to Disarm, Debate Condemnation of Israel

A summit of mostly developing nations backed strong calls Sunday for Iraq to disarm, while Malaysia, the host nation, warned that an invasion of Iraq would be seen as "a war against Muslims."

Preparations for the Non-Aligned Movement summit opening Monday have been dominated by the issues of Iraq and North Korea, both member countries.

Over the weekend, the 114-member group, which includes many U.S. allies as well as bitter foes, drafted a compromise statement on Iraq that urged Baghdad to "actively comply" with U.N. resolutions, but made clear its strong revulsion toward a U.S.-led war.

Delegates also were debating a separate statement on Israeli-Palestinian issues, and appeared likely to label Israel's seizure of Palestinian lands as a war crime, Palestinian delegates said.

Since the 1967 Middle East War, non-aligned nations have regularly condemned Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory. But the current meeting appeared set to go further by endorsing stronger measures against the Jewish state, the Palestinian delegation said.

Heads of state were arriving Sunday and were to approve separate declarations during their two-day summit ending Tuesday.

Non-aligned nations represent the 55 percent of the world's population and hold nearly two-thirds of the U.N. General Assembly seats. Six are members of the 15-seat Security Council, where the United States and Britain need a nine-vote majority to pass a resolution authorizing an attack on Iraq.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad denounced U.S.-led preparations for an assault on Iraq, saying an attack would be seen throughout the Islamic world as "a war against Muslims," especially since Washington has been significantly less hawkish in handling North Korea's nuclear program.

"The attack against Iraq will simply anger more Muslims who see this as anti-Muslim rather than anti-terror," the Malaysian leader told a forum of business leaders coinciding with the summit.

"The fact that North Korea's open admission that it has weapons of mass destruction has met only with mild admonishment by the West seems to prove that indeed it is a war against Muslims and not against the fear of possession of weapons of mass destruction by the so-called rogue countries," Mahathir said.

Mahathir also accused Israel of seizing upon fears of terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks as an excuse "to launch terror attacks against the Palestinians."

Palestinian Authority representatives said delegates wanted the summit's final statement to equate the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with war crimes, arguing that the Geneva Convention bars bringing settlers into occupied territories.

"The summit will call for sanctions and condemnation of Israeli occupation and will describe the expropriation of Palestinian land for settlements as war crimes," Palestinian ambassador to Malaysia Ahmed al-Farra told The Associated Press. Other countries' delegates would not immediately confirm details of talks over the declaration on Israeli-Palestinian issues.

The 150 Jewish settlements and their more than 225,000 residents are considered illegal by the international community and the United States has labeled them "obstacles to peace." Israel is not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Meanwhile, one summit delegate said "preliminary agreement" had been reached with the North Korean representatives to include phrasing urging the Communist nation to reverse its Jan. 10 decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

North Korea has insisted that the grouping condemn Washington for causing the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear development. Pyongyang had rejected earlier appeals by fellow summit participants to return to the nuclear accord.

Indonesia, which has close ties with both North Korea and Washington, was said to be crafting compromise wording that would be acceptable to all participants.