SCHOLARS FOR IRAQ MUSLIM PEACEKEEPERS

Sunni and Shiite scholars from eight major Muslim countries have wrapped up a two-day international conference with a call for sending non-Arab Muslim peacekeepers to Iraq to take over from the US-led military forces.

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Sunni and Shiite scholars from eight major Muslim countries have wrapped up a two-day international conference with a call for sending non-Arab Muslim peacekeepers to Iraq to take over from the US-led military forces.

“The option aims to speed up the process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Iraq,” Alwi Shihab, Indonesia’s special envoy for Middle East affairs, told a press conference after the closing session.

“We want US-led troops to go out from Iraq but we have to establish the substitution first, otherwise Iraq will face a situation in which a vacuum exists.”

Twenty Sunni and Shiite scholars from Syria, Jordan, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia attended the International Conference of Islamic Leaders for Reconciliation in Iraq. Iraq and the OIC were also represented in the conference, though none of Iraq’s key Muslim leaders attended.

Inaugurating the conference, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on the religious leaders to find a way of contributing to peace in Iraq.

“We are gathered here in the name of peace, in the hope that by pooling our experiences, insights and ideas, we could find a way that leads to reconciliation in conflict-torn Iraq.”

The conference, held at the presidential palace in Bogor, was hosted by the government and the country’s two largest Muslim organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

It was held against a backdrop of mounting Shiite-Sunni tensions over the raging sectarian violence in Iraq, which kills dozens day in and day out in unquenched revenge attacks.