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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 23:27 GMT
Mid-East states urge Iraqi compliance
Foreign ministers gather in Istanbul
The six Middle Eastern countries are keen to avert war
Six Middle Eastern nations have urged Iraq to be "more active" in its co-operation with United Nations arms inspectors.

The call came at the end of a one day meeting in Turkey, which gathered together foreign ministers from Iran and the Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the host nation.

We call solemnly on the Iraqi leadership to move irreversibly and sincerely towards assuming its responsibilities in restoring peace and stability in the region

Joint declaration
The six countries - five of which share a border with Iraq - also urged Baghdad to embark on policies that will inspire confidence in its neighbours.

All of the countries present, except Jordan and Iran, were part of the 1991 Gulf War coalition which pushed Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

America, as it gears up for a possible new war, has been putting increasing pressure on them to commit once more to joining a United States-led coalition or at least allow the use of their strategically important bases.

As a member of Nato, Turkey has come under particular pressure and has been the subject of numerous diplomatic missions by the US and Britain.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

Middle Eastern countries are naturally keen to avoid conflict and the economic disaster that is likely to ensue.

"The spectre of war in Iraq is looming large. The countries of this region do not wish to live through yet another war and all its devastating consequences," the six foreign ministers said in a joint statement.

An Iraqi soldier in front of a UN truck
Ministers said Iraq must co-operate more with UN inspectors

"We call solemnly on the Iraqi leadership to move irreversibly and sincerely towards assuming its responsibilities in restoring peace and stability in the region," the declaration, which was read out by Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, said.

They urged Iraq to increase its co-operation with the UN inspectors and "to demonstrate a more active approach in providing Iraq's inventory of information and material concerning her capabilities of weapons of mass destruction".

Implicit US warning

The six countries also had an underlying message for the US, that it was the UN Security Council alone that was responsible for policing the world and legitimising any future attack on Iraq.

"The UN Security Council... is entrusted with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," the declaration said.

"The Security Council is thus fully seized with the task of determining the state of Iraq's compliance with its resolutions and ensuring their full implementation," it added.

But Mr Yakis stressed that the focus of the message was Iraq.

"We did not want to dilute the message so the emphasis is directed to Iraq," he said.

However, the declaration did include a reference to the Palestinian crisis saying that all six nations "remain committed to the peaceful solution of the Palestinian issue and the implementation of all relevant UN resolutions to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East".

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"King Abdullah of Jordan voiced his concern that time is running out"
  The BBC's Jim Fish
"The pressure mounts from those seeking a peaceful way out"
  US Secretary of State Colin Powell
and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

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23 Jan 03 | Middle East
23 Jan 03 | Europe
22 Jan 03 | Europe
23 Jan 03 | Americas
23 Jan 03 | Middle East
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