Iraq Gets Cool Response at Summit

Iraq's foreign minister said Monday that Muslim nations need to accept the reality that the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq will last for a while, and he urged them to contribute peacekeeping forces and money.

Islamic nations at a summit here were largely cool to the request for troops. U.S. allies Turkey and Pakistan touted the idea of a Muslim peacekeeping force -- but with anger at the U.S. occupation high, even Islamabad was doubtful Islamic nations would agree.

"The sentiment of this meeting is that stability should come as soon as possible in Iraq," said Musa Braiza, a Jordanian representative to the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (search). The countries "will do anything possible and everything positive. But the question of forces is now not on the agenda."

At the outset of the weeklong meetings Saturday, senior officials from the 57 members of the OIC -- the world's biggest Islamic organization -- urged the "eviction" of U.S. troops from Iraq. But the Iraqi delegation said that was not likely for the near future.

Ayad Alawi, head of the Iraqi Governing Council's (search) rotating leadership, arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and said the council expected Islamic countries to stand firmly behind it "during this difficult period."

The council desires full Iraqi sovereignty "as soon as possible," Alawi told the Malaysian news agency, Bernama. But, he said, that won't happen "without a firm and positive attitude from the international community."

"We would like the Islamic countries to assist us to move forward and for Iraq to have democracy and stability," Alawi said.

Hoshyar Zebari, another council representative at the meeting, was pessimistic that Muslim nations would join the peacekeeping force desperately sought by the United States to relieve the burden on the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"I don't think there is any desire by the Muslim countries to send troops," Zebari said.

So far, the only Muslim nation that has agreed to send a major deployment to Iraq is Turkey. But the Iraqi council fiercely opposes any Turkish peacekeepers -- fearing neighboring Turkey has designs to dominate Iraq and could stir up problems with Iraqi Kurds (search).

At the Malaysia summit, Turkey's foreign minister urged the OIC to set up its own peacekeeping force for Iraq.

"We have to take up the issue, take the initiative, and act jointly," Abdullah Gul told Turkish reporters at the gathering, according to the Anatolia news agency reported.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said Pakistan was thinking of an all-Muslim peacekeeping force comprising troops from OIC countries.

But he told the Associated Press he doubted the OIC would reach consensus on such a plan because it "represents the whole gamut of the Muslim world" -- an apparent reference to nations like Syria and Iran, which deeply oppose U.S. policy.

He said Pakistan would not agree to join the peacekeeping effort with U.N. authority first -- and the participation of other Muslim nations.

"We will wait for a United Nations resolution which could reflect international consensus," Kasuri told AP. "Even then, we would need other Muslim countries to go along with us, because we want the people of Iraq to perceive us not as an extension of the occupation, but as people who have come to help."

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who chaired the discussions, said any Muslim contributions to a peacekeeping force would come on a country-by-country basis.

"The OIC is not an organization that is a military bloc, neither is our charter formatted to allow us to form an OIC force to operate," Syed Hamid said.

The Iraqi Governing Council's presence at the summit was in dispute until two weeks ago, when host Malaysia dropped insistence that the council was illegitimate without a U.N. mandate and should not take the seat formerly held by Saddam Hussein's government. Arab countries prevailed with their view that the council was transitional and legitimate enough, for now.

Zebari said Muslim countries would be able to help in Iraq's reconstruction at a donor conference in Madrid later this month.

The U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer (search), has said a list will be presented to donors, complete with costs, of everything necessary to help Iraq recover from the war and preceding 12 years of economic sanctions.

Zebari, a Kurd, said discussions were continuing between Turkey, the United States and the Governing Council about the sensitivities over Turkey's offer to deploy a peacekeeping force.

Turkey once ruled what is now Iraq. It has fought a long campaign against Kurdish insurgents on its soil, which many Iraqis fear could spill over into Iraq's own Kurdish areas.

Turkish peacekeepers would be deployed in central Iraq, in areas dominated by Sunni Muslims. Turkey's military on Monday warned that its soldiers would respond if their supply convoys running through northern Iraq to came under attack from Iraqi Kurdish groups.

Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug also said Turkey "would expect the interim government in Iraq to adopt a more positive stance."