AMS criticises Iraq conference

Influential Iraqi body, the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), has criticised the conference on Iraq, which begins in Egypt on Monday, saying it will not achieve anything for Iraqis.

    The AMS says ending the occupation is the best solution

    Shaikh Harith al-Dhari, secretary-general of the AMS, told Aljazeera that ending the occupation was the main solution for the conflict in Iraq.

    "We have no hope in the Sharm al-Shaikh conference, with its current composition and officially announced targets," al-Dhari said.

    "We believe that the conference will mainly focus on helping the occupation against the difficulties it faces in Iraq, with the help of the Iraqi government, appointed by the occupation."

    Security is tight across the seaside resort where about 20 foreign ministers and four international organisations will meet for two days to discuss Iraq's future.

    The gathering has been in the pipeline ever since Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi called for an international forum during a Cairo visit in July.

    Further impetus to the conference came when the Paris Club of creditor nations agreed on Sunday to cut Iraq's $40-billion debt to it by 80%.

    Final draft

     

    The Iraqi delegation, headed by interim Foreign Minister Hushiar Zibari, as well as the UN delegation arrived on Sunday.

    Interim Foreign Minister Hushiar
    Zibari leads the Iraq delegation

    Delegations representing neighbouring Arab states are due to arrive on Monday for the opening at 1400 GMT.

    Aljazeera's correspondent said the final draft 14-point declaration, which mainly discusses the Iraqi government's plans to hold elections early next year, was distributed a few days ago to participating countries.

    US and French representatives had some disputes, mainly over a French demand that a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq should be determined.

    However, the US argued that UN resolution 1546 already accorded US-led forces in Iraq a temporary status.
     
    Another French demand called for establishing a follow up committee after the conference.

    The final statement will also call on the Iraqi government to hold talks with Iraq opposition forces, the correspondent said.

    Protest against US 

    However, Iran has warned that the first day of the conference, which will focus on regional issues, could be the most contentious. 

    Security is tight at the forum

    Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said his country would "protest against US conduct in Iraq, insist on the necessity of withdrawing US troops from Iraq and the organisation of elections on schedule".

    Syria and Turkey have sought to coordinate their position, especially their concerns over Kurdish autonomy.

    Both Ankara and Damascus fear that Iraqi Kurdish aspirations for greater self-rule could destabilise their own Kurdish regions.

    The conference will also bring together Iraq's interim government with officials from the Group of Eight industrialised nations, the Arab League and Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

    US Secretary of State Colin Powell was expected to brief the other members of the Quartet which sponsored the Middle East peace road map - the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - on the sidelines of the Egyptian conference.

    Iran conference

    Iran is to host a meeting of Iraq's neighbours on 30 November at the interior minister level as part of efforts to restore security, Zibari said on Monday.

     

    "Iran is going to host on the 30th of this month a meeting of the interior ministers of Iraq's neighbours which we actually proposed back in June and it has only been decided now," he said.

     

    Zibari said the Sharm al-Shaikh conference will aim to "reassure our neighbours" over the intentions of the US-led forces in Iraq.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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