Muslim Conference Ends a Day Early Amid Rancor
Delegates on Wednesday broke off the closing session of a Muslim summit that starkly revealed Arab feuds and embarrassed its Senegalese hosts.
Resentment between Persian Gulf War winners and losers poisoned the atmosphere, and the agenda proved too thin to fill the four days planned for the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which groups 45 mainly Muslim nations. So, the meeting finished one day early.
Arab behavior failed to dispel old suspicions by black Africans that they are second-class citizens in the Muslim world.
Senegalese officials said 13 heads of delegation had left by midday Wednesday, including those from Kuwait, Jordan, Algeria, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria.
An Arab delegate commented sarcastically: “Since we are all in agreement, why should we waste more time?”
Speeches by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait showed they are still angry at Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait last year.
The behavior of Persian Gulf delegates indicated there is little chance at present that Arab leaders sympathetic to Baghdad during the crisis will be forgiven.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at one point turned his face away to avoid shaking hands with King Hussein of Jordan.
And he said “no kissing, please” at Yasser Arafat when the Palestine Liberation Organization leader rushed to embrace him. The PLO had expressed support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf War.
Arafat gave a stirring speech about the Palestinian cause Tuesday to a half-empty conference hall where delegates moved around and chatted as he appealed for reconciliation.
A number of African and Arab delegates congratulated Arafat with kisses when he went to sit down, but no Gulf Arabs did so. No Kuwaiti delegates listened to his speech, and the Saudi seats were almost empty.