- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

VIENNA, Austria — Muslim clerics and scholars must do more to denounce terrorism and its leaders or risk allowing Islamic radicalism to spread, the president of Iraq said at a conference yesterday.

“It is incumbent on Muslim theologians — and all Muslim thinkers — to make sure these criminals have no peace and have no room,” Jalal Talabani said at a gathering of religious and political leaders examining ways to improve contacts between the West and Muslim nations.

Terrorism has dominated the agenda and showed the deep quandaries over how to wage an intellectual battle against al Qaeda and other radical groups. Mr. Talabani echoed the appeals of many moderate Muslims for sharper condemnations of terrorists by religious authorities, such as Sunni clerics who have influence in regions of Iraq considered rebel strongholds.

“Islamic leaders and philosophers must expose that [the terrorist groups] are only trying to deceive their followers and they do nothing but destruction,” he said.

His comments came shortly after two attacks in Iraq targeting police yesterday: a car bomb blast in Baghdad that killed four police officers and gunfire in the northern city of Kirkuk that left four officers dead.

“A barbarous type of terrorism exists in Iraq that is being carried out by al Qaeda and the most fundamentalist terrorists,” Mr. Talabani said. “Terrorism is a scourge that the world is suffering under. … It will grow if we don’t act.”

Mr. Talabani also challenged the widespread European opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, saying that war was the only way to end the brutalities of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The deputy speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Hussain al-Shahristani, added that “if terrorism is allowed to defeat freedom and democracy in Iraq, then other parts of the world will also be threatened.”

Earlier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned that the failure to defeat Taliban-led terrorism in his country could have wider consequences. Twin suicide bombings in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Monday killed at least nine persons and was blamed on terrorists with links to al Qaeda.

“Individual acts of terrorism we will continue to suffer for quite some time as well as the rest of the world,” Mr. Karzai told reporters after his speech.

The conference has sought to sidestep direct political squabbles despite some clear differences, including an Iranian delegation led by former President Mohammad Khatami and a U.S. presence directed by Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

But Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik made a diplomatic jab apparently aimed at Mr. Khatami’s hard-line successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who last month said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

“It is not acceptable at all to question the right of existence of another,” said Mrs. Plassnik, whose nation takes over the European Union presidency Jan. 1.

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