Islamic Conference Yields Cautious Words, No Action


FOREIGN ministers from 40 Islamic countries ended an emergency meeting here yesterday on a cautious note, urging the world to do more to help their Muslim brothers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but stopping short of deciding on any action themselves.

The conference urged the United Nations Security Council to use force, if necessary, to stop Serbian attacks on Bosnia, and also asked that Bosnia be exempted from the international arms embargo against the former Yugoslavia.

A marathon closing session revealed sharp differences between members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), according to conference sources, but the final resolution took a "practical stance," in the words of Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, which did "not depart from the mainstream of international action."

Rejecting calls by countries such as Iran for direct action to aid the Bosnian Muslims in defiance of the UN arms embargo, the OIC showed that "we do not want to do anything that could be construed as confrontation between Islamic countries and the international community," said Jordanian Foreign Minister Kamal Abu Jaber.

The wording of the resolution disappointed some delegates. "There should have been a stronger message," argued Ozden Sanberk, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official. "There were some ambiguities and some timidities."

No such timidity is to be seen in the face of Riyad Quayyum, a wiry and determined-looking Pakistani construction engineer who has lived in Saudi Arabia for the past 16 years. He is leaving Jiddah for Bosnia next week, one of hundreds of Muslims from the Arab world and beyond who have chosen to work and fight alongside the Bosnians.

Mr. Quayyum was an anti-aircraft expert in the Pakistani Army, and during a stint with the mujahideen guerrillas in Afghanistan he operated hand-held Stinger ground-to-air missiles.

He is going to Bosnia, he says, "because this is a Muslim issue.... I cannot see the suffering of innocent human beings and do nothing." Quayyum has never been to Europe, and he speaks only Arabic and his native Urdu, aside from some English, but he says he has no qualms about finding his way to the front in Bosnia. "There are a lot of Muslims there, a lot of people from here are going. It will be easy to get to Croatia and then on."

Using his savings for the journey, Quayyum says he has also been given some money by a wealthy Saudi patron for his air fare to Vienna. Alongside a number of Saudi humanitarian organizations that have been collecting money to aid Bosnian refugees, individual Saudi businessmen are also buying uniforms, telecommunications equipment, and even weapons for Bosnian fighters, and funding Arab mujahideen such as Quayyum, according to Saudi sources close to such operations.

The fighters, who number less than 1,000, according to sources here, "go more to help the Bosnians' morale, to make them feel less alone, and to introduce them to the idea of jihad [holy war]," says Jamal Kashogji, a Saudi journalist who recently visited Croatia.

Disappointed by their government's lack of action to help the Bosnians, these freelance Muslim soldiers are examples of the "accumulating frustrations" that Mr. Sanberk, the Turkish diplomat, warns are building in Islamic countries, and that "are not good for moderate Islamic governments."

Just as veterans of the Afghan war are known to be part of radical armed groups in Algeria and Egypt, "allowing people to go to Bosnia and get military training there will make them good prospects for something else later on," Mr. Kashogji warns.

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