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Afghan leader cancels meeting with top Muslim body.

Byline: Reuters

JEDDAH: Afghan President Hamid Karzai canceled on Wednesday a meeting with the world s top Muslim body in Saudi Arabia that was aimed at pushing for dialogue to help reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.

The meeting was called off because Karzai had reservations over the agenda, a senior Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) official said, without elaborating.

An Afghan diplomat told Reuters that the meeting with the OIC, led by Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, was canceled because the Afghan delegation wanted to visit Medina, the burial place of the Prophet Mohammad.

Karzai arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to seek the kingdom s spiritual influence and financial clout to reconcile with the Taliban during talks with King Abdullah, whose country is home to Islam s two most holy sites.

The canceled meeting would have addressed the OIC s role in containing Afghan tensions and to follow up on an OIC bid to organize a conference for Islamic scholars from different religious authorities on the Afghan issue, the OIC said.

"We understand that Saudi Arabia supports this drive by the OIC for debate among Afghan religious leaders as a means to convince the Taliban to openly abandon al Qaeda," the senior OIC official told Reuters by telephone from Jeddah.

Reuters could not immediately reach OIC s Ihsanoglu and Karzai s spokesman Waheed Omer.

The Saudi-based OIC has sought under Ihsanoglu -- and with the open support of King Abdullah -- to play a bigger role in solving Muslim world crises through debate.

Karzai started a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in hope of getting the absolute monarchy s support to his reconciliation drive with the Taliban. He had been due to meet Ihsanoglu in Jeddah before meeting King Abdullah in Riyadh later in the day.

Karzai s visit follows his call at a London conference last week urging Saudi Arabia to help bring peace to Afghanistan.

Riyadh has arranged and hosted talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in the past.

Karzai, in remarks published by Saudi newspapers, said any message from King Abdullah would have a deep impact on the Taliban and other Islamist movements.

"His message is obeyed by everyone," Karzai said in remarks published in Al-Madina newspaper.

Riyadh has said the Taliban must deny sanctuary to Saudi-born al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- whose group waged bloody attacks against the kingdom in the past -- before it will agree to act as a mediator in any Afghan peace deal.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Feb 4, 2010
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