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Iraqi, Kuwaiti delegates quarrel at Islamic summit

DOHA, Qatar—An emergency summit Wednesday of the world's largest Islamic organization degenerated into a shouting match between Iraqi and Kuwaiti officials.

After his heated speech was interrupted by Kuwait's state minister for foreign affairs, Izzat Ibrahim Douri, a top aide to Saddam Hussein, told Kuwait's state minister for foreign affairs to "Shut up, you dog," after the Kuwaiti interrupted Ibrahim's heated speech. Kuwaiti delegates then briefly left the meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, saying the Iraqi tirade shows why war is inevitable.

"Today the Iraqi regime showed what is in its heart, the hatred toward its neighbors and Kuwait," said Ahmad Fahd al Sabah, Kuwait's information minister. "It will take a miracle to stop what's happening, in an age when miracles don't take place."

On Saturday, during a meeting of the Arab League in Egypt, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia stormed out after a spat with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Like other recent forums of the Middle East's deeply divided countries, the 57-nation OIC adjourned here without sending a strong message to Baghdad or Washington. The Arab League will send representatives to New York on Thursday to meet with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and foreign ministers from the Security Council's five permanent members, but the region's fissures have left the group with little clout.

"It is a very difficult moment," said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani. "The Arab and Islamic world is divided. If we cannot change the way we are working . . . these meetings will be only ceremonial meetings."

The OIC summit did not discuss a controversial United Arab Emirates proposal calling for Saddam Hussein to step down to avoid war. United Arab Emirates delegates met privately with Iraqi officials and agreed not to push the plan if Iraq would not leave the conference and cause it to collapse.

Neither side would discuss specifics of their talks. United Arab Emirates Information Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said the diplomacy was "fruitful." Iraq Foreign Minister Naji Sabri dismissed the United Arab Emirates proposal, saying: "I will not talk about anything dead."

The argument between Kuwait and Iraq started within the first two hours of the summit. Iraq's Ibrahim, the deputy chairman of the country's Revolutionary Command Council, gave an impassioned speech about how Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait has hurt Baghdad more than Kuwait.

He said Kuwait had stabbed Iraq in the back, cutting deals with imperialists and Zionists to host tens of thousands of U.S. troops who now plan to invade Iraq.

Kuwait's Mohammed Salem al Sabah, state minister for foreign affairs, said Ibrahim was lying and labeled the speech blasphemy. That prompted the Iraqi, who is wanted in Europe on war crimes charges, to explode.

"Shut up, you dog," Ibrahim said, using one of the worst insults possible in the Arab world, where dogs are considered filthy. The prophet Muhammad discouraged the faithful from keeping them as pets.

Ibrahim also called Sabah "little one" and an agent of the United States and Israel. "A curse be on your whiskers," he said, referring to the facial hair that's a badge of honor in the Arab world.

The emir of host nation Qatar quoted the Koran, urging delegates to be unified and reminding them that their argument was being broadcast to citizens and reporters watching outside the Ritz Carlton hotel ballroom.

Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah later said that Iraq's leaders are "not thinking of their own people."

"We do consider that the Iraqi people are our people, our brotherly people, and we hope that the Iraqi leaders will think very seriously," al Sabah said

Iraqi officials would not discuss the argument afterward.

The Arab world has been split on how to handle the United States' showdown with Iraq. Some nations, such as Kuwait, believe war is inevitable and that the focus should be on planning for the aftermath. Egypt and Saudi Arabia want to push Saddam to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. And others, including Syria, the only Arab state with a vote on the U.N. Security Council, continue to voice strong support for Iraq.

That the meeting ended with no agreement was not much of a surprise to many analysts and participants. "Everything has already been said, the positions are very well known," said one foreign minister, speaking only on condition of anonymity.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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