P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday endorsed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's efforts to form a caucus of like-minded countries from within the Islamic bloc for devising ways to solve the worsening crises in West Asia.

Gen. Musharraf on Wednesday received Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's backing for this initiative.

After talks with Gen. Musharraf in Kuala Lumpur, Mr. Abdullah said: "It is my hope as well as his that we will be able to examine further the causes and whatever-it-is that is associated with the Middle East [West Asia]."

Evolving plan

Pakistan's move was "welcome" because the West Asian crises were "escalating" despite peace efforts by the U.N., NAM and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Malaysia is now the OIC Chair, and Foreign Minister Hamid Albar said Pakistan's move, which found favour with several Muslim countries, would not undermine the organisation's role. The initiative was being evolved through a consultative process involving Muslim-majority countries with "strong leadership." The trouble-shooting exercise "is still at an early stage," he said.

Indonesian official Dino Pati Djalal said, when contacted over the phone, that details of the initiative were yet to be firmed up. He said the objective was to address the West Asian situation and not issues involving Muslim populations elsewhere.

Regional diplomats noted that Gen. Musharraf included the Afghan situation in his check-list of crises that should be addressed expeditiously.

But the leaders of both Indonesia and Malaysia turned the spotlight on only the other three crises that Pakistan mentioned Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq.