GCC revises controversial textbooks

Gulf Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait have agreed to revise school textbooks which Washington claims fuel anti-Christian and anti-Jewish sentiments.

    Leaders from six Arabian Gulf states attended the summit

    The announcement came at the end of an annual meeting on Monday of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - a political and military alliance grouping heavyweight Saudi Arabia with Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates

    .

    The GCC has come under pressure from Washington since the 11 September 2001 attacks to reform school curricula.

    The educational reforms, stated in a treaty adopted by the leaders pledging to combat "terrorism", include removal from school textbooks of material describing followers of other religions as infidels and enemies of Islam.

    Educational changes
     
    Critics say language exercises in Saudi schools have sometimes asked children to complete sentences like "God hates..." - the correct answer being "infidels".

    A text used by 13 and 14-year-olds in Saudi Arabia used to call on Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews because "emulation of the infidels leads to loving them". The passage was recently erased.

    US officials, arguing that 15 of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis, have claimed such teaching lies behind the anti-Western sentiment that led to the attacks.
     
    The GCC said the educational reforms were based on a document presented by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abd Allah. 

    Anti-terror pledge
      

    In the meeting's final communiqué, the leaders adopted a treaty pledging to combat "terrorism".

    Delegates welcomed the capture
    of Saddam Hussein

    Officials said the treaty also called for security coordination, exchange of information, strengthening security networks and drying up sources of "terrorism".

    Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Shaikh Muhammad al-Sabah told a news conference interior ministers will soon sign the treaty, similar to a pact signed by Arab states in 1998.
     
    "It... defines exactly what is terrorism... it also deals directly with the sources of financing and methods of operation we might combat," he added.

    The GCC, which groups four OPEC members, discussed relations with the new Iraq and welcomed the capture of ousted leader Saddam Hussein "as a boost to security and stability". 
     
    WMD-free area
       
    The two-day summit, convened amid tight security, also discussed steps towards economic integration, including a single currency and common market.
       
    After Libya said it was giving up plans for nuclear and other banned weapons, the GCC renewed its calls for a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction.
       
    It called for Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and subject its nuclear facilities to inspections.
       
    The communique made no mention of US calls for governments to lighten Iraq's enormous debt burden, but Gulf officials said the controversial issue was tackled on the sidelines.
       
    Kuwait's foreign minister said it would be dealt with fully during US Presidential envoy James Baker's visit. Kuwait, invaded by Iraq in 1990, opposes cancelling all the money Baghdad owes it.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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