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Leaders and ministers of more than 50 Muslim countries urged their nations to fight terrorism and called for moderation within Islam, as they opened a summit Wednesday in a palace overlooking Islam's holiest shrine.
"We do not have the luxury of blaming others for our own problems. It is high time we addressed our national and regional problems with courage, sincerity and openness," said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
"We should fight terrorism by dealing with its roots and causes, whether committed by individuals, groups or states," Ihsanoglu said. "Terrorism is a crime that every Muslim should fight."
While discussions during the two-day summit are expected to focus on terrorism, delegates will also seek to forge a plan to reform the 57-member organization in a bid to give it more clout in international affairs.
"The future of humanity depends on this part of the world," Ihsanoglu said. "What is going on in the Islamic world has dire consequences elsewhere."
"Lack of moderation is one of the main sources of instability and chaos in the modern world," the OIC secretary general said. He stressed the need to combat poverty, illiteracy and corruption in the Muslim world, saying that "when these issues are not addressed properly by legitimate means, they are used as an excuse to push for extreme agendas."
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, speaking at the opening session, also called for moderation. "Islamic unity can't be achieved by the spilling of blood, as deviant people claim by their dark ideas," he said.
The leaders of about 40 countries were participating in the meeting, with the remaining OIC members represented by ministers. Among noted absentees were Syrian President Bashar Assad, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, hospitalized in France, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Foreign ministers who met in Jeddah Tuesday to prepare for the summit said the gathering would tackle challenges the Muslim world must overcome.
"The Muslim nation is facing great challenges and enormous dangers targeting its cultural foundations and religious creeds," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday. The summit "will forge a comprehensive plan to overcome the obstacles that block the aspirations of our nation."
Abdelaziz Belkhadem, a top adviser of Bouteflika, said the summit was expected to produce a code of conduct for Islamic countries to counter terrorism.
But delegates at Tuesday's meeting said there were disagreements over the issue, with Qatar and Jordan at odds over the wording of part of the summit's final communique.
A draft of the document stated that terrorism goes against Islam's teachings and "all necessary measures must be taken against it."
Jordan proposed the text clearly state that Islamic nations must fight terrorism, while Qatar was insisting on milder wording, with delegates saying it was arguing that tough wording might be interpreted as yielding to American pressure.
Jordanian foreign minister Abdel Ellah al-Khatib acknowledged there were disagreements. "This is an organization of 57 countries, so it is normal that they differ," he said.
Wednesday's meeting was being held at the Safa Palace, adjacent to the Grand Mosque. The summit was to continue Thursday in Jeddah, the base of the OIC, which was founded in 1969.
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