By Tarek Al-Issawi
DOHA, Qatar – Muslim leaders questioned Wednesday whether the evidence of who planned the Sept. 11 terror attacks supports the ongoing U.S. assault on Afghanistan or if innocent civilians are being caught up in the war on terrorism.
Presiding over an Organization of the Islamic Conference emergency session Wednesday, Qatar’s Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani condemned the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
However, he said retaliation “should not extend to any but those who carried out those attacks. This requires providing conclusive evidence against the culprits.”
The evidence gathered by U.S. officials linking the attacks to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network has been widely accepted by Western leaders but questioned by some Arab states. U.S. and British forces on Sunday began airstrikes on targets in Afghanistan, which harbors bin Laden.
The United States has said it seeks to avoid civilian casualities in its assault. The Taliban say dozens have been killed, though only four civilian deaths have been independently confirmed.
The Qatari ruler, in an apparent criticism of remarks by President Bush, said that dialogue was the best means to resolve conflicts.
“The Islamic world was among the first to have called for the dialogue of civilizations … instead of falling into conflicting sects, camps and clashing dichotomies based on the principle of ‘If you are not on my side, then you are against me,’ ” Sheik Hamad said.
Sheik Hamad – who earlier announced Qatar’s plan to donate $10 million for a fund to help Afghans – also called for a distinction to be made between terrorism and a people’s “legitimate right to defend their freedom and self-determination.”
This was an apparent reference to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which in 12 months of fighting has killed 677 people on the Palestinian side and 184 people on the Israeli side.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, speaking at the Doha meeting, warned that the world should not to forget about the Palestinian-Israeli violence.
“While the world is busy with the American tragedy, the Israeli government is using its military might to escalate its aggression against our people and to reoccupy our land,” Arafat said.
Arab leaders have both condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and expressed support for a campaign against terrorism. But there is concern over the possibility of U.S. strikes widening to include Arab countries.
On Tuesday, a Gulf official told The Associated Press that Arab foreign ministers meeting in Qatar had rejected any potential strikes on Arab and Muslim states and called for holding an international anti-terrorism summit.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ministers had agreed on a communique for foreign ministers of the 56-member Islamic conference to adopt Wednesday.
The communique rejects linking Islam to terrorism and insists on the legitimacy of resisting occupation and the right for self-defense, the official said.
The United States told the U.N. Security Council on Monday that it may have to attack countries other than Afghanistan to root out terrorism.
Meanwhile, Saudi authorities intensified efforts to monitor business deals and financial transactions as part of efforts to cut off terrorists’ funds, a Saudi newspaper reported Wednesday.
Financial bodies have been ordered by the Commerce Ministry to strictly monitor sizeable transactions and report any dubious cases, the English-language Arab News said.
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.