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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 15:57 GMT
Moderate Islam urged to speak out
Muslim girl under the word "Law" in French
France's headscarf ban highlights friction felt by European Muslims
Moderate Muslim leaders must speak out against extremists, not let them set the agenda, the host of an international conference has said.

"We should not concede the public space to those who abuse religion... and abuse culture to reach their aims," Austria's foreign minister said.

Ursula Plassnik was opening a three-day conference in Vienna on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Presidents and Nobel prize winners are expected to address the conference.

Climate of suspicion

The presidents of Afghanistan and Iraq are attending, as is former President Mohammad Khatami of Iran.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi is also expected.

Foreign Minister Plassnik says it is aimed at fostering dialogue.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik
We have to listen to each other and we have to open our eyes and ears
Ursula Plassnik
Austrian Foreign Minister

She said mistrust and violence between Muslims and non-Muslims was growing, not least in Europe.

She added that increasing numbers of European Muslims were seeking their rightful place in society.

Leaders must show courage to unite against groups promoting cultural intolerance and violence, Ms Plassnik said.

The BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna says the recent riots in France, fears about terrorism and widespread discontent in the Arab world about Western policies in Iraq and the Middle East have contributed to an atmosphere of suspicion.

The high-level meeting comes just before Austria takes over the presidency of the European Union.

It is being seen as a sign that Austria wants to encourage more EU ties with moderate Muslim leaders.

Austria has been the most vocal opponent of allowing Muslim Turkey to join the EU.


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