In an effort to head off war between Iraq and the United States, the foreign ministers of six leading Islamic nations urged Baghdad on Thursday to cooperate more closely with U.N. weapons inspectors and to do its utmost to restore regional stability.
"The specter of war in Iraq is looming large. The countries of this region do not wish to live through yet another war and all its devastating consequences," the officials from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey said in a statement issued at the end of a daylong conference in Istanbul.
"We request Iraq ... demonstrate a more active approach in providing its inventory of information and material concerning its capabilities with weapons of mass destruction," said the statement, which was read by Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis.
All the participating countries except Egypt share borders with Iraq, and all fear that a war would further destabilize their highly volatile region while eroding support for their governments.
The declaration also stressed the need to resolve the Iraq crisis within the framework of the United Nations.
"The U.N. Security Council ... is entrusted with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Security Council is thus fully seized with the task of determining the state of Iraq's compliance with its resolutions and ensuring their full implementation," it said.
The foreign ministers told reporters that they had not discussed any plans for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to go into exile, and they dismissed media reports that they were in favor of a military coup.
Turkey's diplomatic effort came amid mounting pressure from the Bush administration to take part in a possible war. As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's sole predominantly Muslim member, Turkey is expected to play a key role, as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Bowing to U.S. pressure, Turkish leaders over the last week have indicated that they are ready to allow the deployment of a limited number of U.S. ground troops, who would open a second front against Iraqi forces from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. But Turkey insists that it can do so only after securing parliamentary approval.
Western diplomats said that by holding the conference, Turkey has proven to its own strongly antiwar public that it is exhausting all avenues of peace.
"And that," said a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, "will make it that much easier for them to take part in a war on the side of the United States."