PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia – Foreign ministers arriving Sunday at the world's biggest meeting of Islamic nations prepared to welcome Iraq's new government at arm's length and confer another layer of legitimacy to the U.S.-picked body.
The ministers, representing the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (search), arrived as lower-ranking officials from their countries put the final touches on agendas for ministerial meetings Monday and Tuesday, to be followed by a full summit of national leaders Thursday and Friday.
With the occupation of Iraq (search) and threats to other countries reinforcing unease that the war on terrorism is turning into persecution of Muslims, officials said the ministers and leaders will discuss resolutions welcoming the Iraqi Governing Council and condemning Israel for last week's air strike against Syria (search).
They will also hear host Malaysia, led by blunt-spoken Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (search), urge that the 34-year-old organization cast off a reputation as being little more than a talking shop and show more unity as a strong advocate of Muslim nations on the world stage.
The status of Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled six months ago had led to disagreement in the OIC, with summit host Malaysia contending that no Iraqi government should be seated with the country under U.S. occupation, and the powerful Arab bloc saying that the Governing Council (search) is transitional and legitimate enough, for now.
The Arab view prevailed, and Iraq will be represented by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (search), a Kurd, and by Ayad Alawi, current holder of the council's rotating leadership.
Delegates said that a resolution would likely welcome the Governing Council but be balanced with calls for Iraq's return to full independence and sovereignty and control over its own oil.
The resolution "is more of a welcome and acknowledgment of the Governing Council and considering it as a step in the right direction," said Musa Braiza, a senior official from Jordan. "I am not aware of any opposition."
A resolution condemning Israel for launching an air strike in Syria — the first such attack in three decades — was also expected, Syrian officials said. Israel has claimed that the attack targeted a training camp used by Palestinian militants. Syria insists the camp closed years ago.
Delegates said that no resolution was likely on the issue of sending peacekeepers to Iraq, which has divided Turkey from the Governing Council and other states.
Turkey, which once ruled much of the Arab world, has offered to send peacekeepers without waiting for Iraq to shift from control of the United States to the United Nations, a stumbling block for other Muslim countries demanding a U.N. mandate.
The Governing Council has rejected peacekeepers from neighboring countries, fearing they could end up interfering in Iraq's internal affairs and that Turkey's long-running conflict with ethnic Kurdish insurgents could spill over to Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.
The dispute has put the Governing Council on a collision course with its American overseers, who are desperate for foreign troops to relieve the burden on the 130,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Malaysia's Mahathir, a staunch opponent of the U.S. invasion, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. that persistent attacks on U.S. troops show they are unwelcome in Iraq.
Mahathir, 77, who retires Oct. 31 after 22 years in power, said the current scenario in Iraq differed from that after World War II when U.S. troops who helped liberate Paris were showered with thanks.
"But today, we don't see that thing happening in Iraq," Mahathir said.