Mecca bid to halt Iraq sectarian dirty war

Mecca bid to halt Iraq sectarian dirty war
October 20th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Mecca bid to halt Iraq sectarian dirty war

Mecca bid to halt Iraq sectarian dirty war
Media: AFP
Byline: n/a
Date: 20 October 2006


RIYADH, Oct 20, 2006 (AFP) - Iraqi clerics gathered in Saudi Arabia Friday
to issue a desperate plea from Islam's holiest place for a halt to
sectarian bloodletting that is killing dozens of Muslims every day.

The Shiite and Sunni clerics were due to gather after sundown at a royal
palace hard by Mecca's Great Mosque to issue the appeal for an end to the
killing of fellow Muslims on the last day of prayer of the Muslim holy
month of Ramadan.

The 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference which is sponsoring
the initiative said at least 25 Iraqi clerics were expected to take part in
the ceremony which was due to kick off at 1930 GMT after the end of the
daytime Ramadan fast.

The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani, has sent "a message which will be read on his behalf at the
signing ceremony," an OIC official told AFP.

Sistani decided not to send a representative but "supports and blesses" the
gathering, an aide told AFP at his base in the Iraqi Shiite clerical
capital of Najaf.

The leading Sunni in Iraq's Shiite-led national unity government, Vice
President Tareq al-Hashemi, was also in Mecca although officially he was
there to perform the lesser pilgrimage or Omra traditionally performed at
the end of Ramadan, the Al-Watan daily said.

The Iraqi clerics flew in on a special flight laid on by the Saudi
authorities, the OIC official said, although he declined to specify their

The Islamic bloc has acknowledged that the success of its initiative will
largely depend on the level of participation by the spiritual leaders of
the two communities.

"If the level is not high, this meeting will serve no purpose," a spokesman

Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia US commanders
accuse of carrying out much of the killing from the Shiite side, is also
not sending a representative to the gathering although he gave it his
qualified support on Wednesday.

"I support all conferences that go in line with the interest of Iraq,
though I would have preferred it to be held in Iraq," he said.

The clerics will approve a 10-point text drafted by a smaller group of four
clerics from two communities under OIC auspices.

The text draws on verses of the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed
highlighting that "spilling Muslim blood is forbidden".

It also calls for safeguarding the two communities' holy places, defending
the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq and the release of "all
innocent detainees."

The OIC spokesman stressed that the summit was "not a conference or a forum
or a venue for negotiations."

Rather, "it is a meeting of the marjaya (Shiite religious authorities) and
Sunni ulema (clerics) to anoint the document, which will be distributed to
Iraqis and publicized in the media.

"This initiative aims to quell religious conflict and does not profess to
reconcile the protagonists," he emphasised.

Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has seen the death toll
from the communal bloodletting spiral since he launched a national
reconciliation plan in June, said he hoped the gathering would give a boost
to his government's efforts.

"We pin hopes on every step made by people who care for the interest of
Iraq and condemn the terror acts in Iraq," he said.

"A conference like that in Mecca, whereby Shiite and Sunni clerics are to
attend, is deemed to be a support to efforts at home to find common ground
for dialogue."

But the meeting came after the US military acknowledged Thursday that the
impact of the government's efforts to restore security had been
"disheartening" and required a rethink.

"The violence is indeed disheartening. In Baghdad alone we have seen a 22
percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan as
compared to the three weeks preceding Ramadan," spokesman Major General
William Caldwell said.

"We are obviously very concerned about what we are seeing in the city. We
are taking a lot of time to go back and look at the Baghdad security plan."

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