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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Muslims urge Islamic free trade
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Malaysia's Mr Abdullah called on OIC nations to work together
Muslim countries have been urged to set up an Islamic common market as a way of boosting trade and development.

The call came at the end of a three-day World Islamic Economic Forum held under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

The forum in Kuala Lumpur said the OIC's 57 nations could gain economic clout internationally by signing an Islamic free trade agreement.

At present, OIC countries' collective GDP is less than 5% of the world total.

Trading between OIC countries is worth about $800bn (456bn) - no more than 7% of global trade as a whole.

Co-operation

The current OIC chairman, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, told the forum that the world's 1.5 billion Muslims were "a huge Islamic consumer market".

But so far, few OIC member countries have managed to attract much foreign direct investment, apart from rich countries such as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Abdullah said Muslim nations had to "explore and identify new and innovative means to strengthen our co-operation" and "break any deadlock caused by excessive bureaucracy".

The forum brought together more than 500 delegates from 44 countries with the aim of creating an Islamic equivalent of the World Economic Forum, held every year in the Swiss resort of Davos.

Delegates agreed to establish a permanent secretariat for the forum in Kuala Lumpur and to make it an annual event, held alternately in Malaysia and Pakistan.


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