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Islamic States Discussed Oil 'Weapon'

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday that Islamic states had discussed using oil as a "weapon" to avert a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq, but had failed to reach a consensus on the issue.

Countries meeting for informal talks of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur acknowledged there would be "repercussions" if they sought to use their control over the world's oil market in their campaign to prevent war, Mahathir said.

"There was no consensus about using the oil weapon. There was only consensus on thinking of the possibility of using the weapon -- on that we all agree," Mahathir said.

Leading oil producers Saudi Arabia and Iran were among the 47 member OIC states at the talks.

Mahathir did not say what steps using oil as a weapons could involve, but Arab producers in the early 1970s placed an oil embargo on Western states for supporting Israel in the Arab-Israeli war. The move triggered a global economic recession.

The idea of using oil as leverage to influence U.S. policy on Iraq has been raised before, but has never achieved consensus among top producers, especially Washington's allies in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, has never wanted to repeat the global economic recession seen in the 1970s.

The group also discussed making "common cause" with anti-war protesters in Western countries, and line up behind France and Germany in efforts in the U.N. Security Council to avoid war, Mahathir said.

The OIC talks Wednesday were hastily arranged by Malaysia to gather leaders of Muslim nations already in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit, which ended Tuesday.

The summit tried to head off an Iraq war with the twin strategies of strongly urging Iraq to comply with U.N. demands to disarm, while making plain the group's opposition to a U.S.-led war.

Staunchly anti-war Malaysia, which takes over the chairmanship of the OIC in October, originally proposed an emergency meeting that would have been expected to reach a definitive position on Iraq before momentum toward war becomes unstoppable.