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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 15:53 GMT

World: South Asia

Muslim leaders urge economic reform

The meeting was delayed for months because of floods

The D-8 developing Islamic countries have called for reform of the international financial system.

David Chazan: "The leaders of the summit agree that they must pull together against the economic power of the west"
"The global financial crisis - in particular the severity of the crisis in Asia - has highlighted the weaknesses in the global economic and financial system," they said in a joint declaration at the end of a summit in Bangladesh.

The two-day meeting brought together the eight most populous Muslim countries - Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

David Chazan: "Critics fear the group may become a talking shop"
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif issued strong calls during discussions on protection against unchecked globalisation.

However, the Turkish President Suleyman Demirel warned against protectionism in response to the Asian financial crisis.

[ image: Turkey's Suleyman Demirel cautious about protectionism]
Turkey's Suleyman Demirel cautious about protectionism
The summit also focused on ways of boosting economic co-operation between the eight nations, who between them control more than one-fifth of the world's oil and gas supplies.

The D-8 countries have a combined population of more than 800 million, but represent only 4% of global trade.

However, BBC Dhaka Correspondent David Chazan says increasing trade within the D-8 may prove difficult because the members face different problems and some have conflicting economic interests.

Leaders stay away

In Bangladesh, some analysts dismissed the D-8 as yet another talking shop, pointing out that the group's first summit since it was launched was being attended by only four heads of state or government.

Leaders of Iran, Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria pulled out of the meeting, citing domestic commitments.

Others, however, have welcomed the D-8 as a way to reduce what they see as Bangladesh's economic dependence on India and increase links with other Muslim countries.

Possible deals

Few observers in Bangladesh expected any major decisions to be taken at the summit, but there is speculation that some bilateral deals may be done.

Malaysia, for example, has expressed interest in new joint ventures to exploit Bangladesh's substantial gas reserves, and Bangladesh would like to send more migrant workers to Malaysia.

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