MECCA, (Saudi Arabia), Dec 8: Muslim leaders at a summit closing in Mecca Thursday are united in the need to combat terrorism and defend the image of Islam, the Saudi foreign minister said, report agencies.
"All (leaders) agree on combating terrorism and extremism and stressing the moderate (nature) of Islam," Prince Saud al-Faisal said late Wednesday at the summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
He said that leaders of Muslim countries, at their two-day meeting in the holy city of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia, stressed the need to stop blaming outside forces for problems in the Muslim world and focus on cooperation.
"(They agreed) on stressing the importance of cooperation between Muslims and putting an end to complaints of foreign conspiracies, and concentrating on common efforts to face development challenges," he said.
The summit opened with a call from Saudi Arabia for moderation and tolerance and a rejection of extremist violence.
"Islamic unity would not be reached through bloodshed as claimed by the deviants," said King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, whose country hosts the 57-member OIC's headquarters.
King Abdullah was referring to Islamist extremists, notably the Al-Qaeda terror network of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.
He called upon the Islamic jurisprudence arm of the OIC to "fulfill its historic role of combating extremism".
He also called for a reform of educational programmes in Islamic nations, which are facing US pressure to change school textbooks that Washington has criticised as intolerant.
Washington has been pushing for an initiative to encourage democratic reform and economic liberalisation in Arab and Muslim countries in a bid to abate the frustration and poverty on which terror is thought to thrive.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, whose country chairs the summit, said the Muslim world was "faced with grave problems that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe.
"We can no longer neglect these problems or expect others to solve them for us," he said.
On Tuesday, OIC foreign ministers held a preparatory meeting in the Saudi city of Jeddah to draft the agenda of the summit, which is expected to adopt two main documents: a "Mecca Declaration" and a 10-year "plan of action to confront the challenges of the 21st century".
In a draft of the Mecca Declaration, the Muslim leaders called for their countries to "combat forcefully the preachers of sedition and deviation, who aim to distort the peaceful principles of Islam".
But they also expressed concern over the "widespread phenomenon of hatred and antagonism against Islam."
Meanwhile, in an attempt to address sectarian divisions among Muslims, a committee working on drafting the 10-year plan suggested adding an article which bans accusations of apostasy being leveled at certain groups.
The proposed article, which appears aimed at reducing tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, stressed "the correct belief of Muslim groups ... as long as they believe in God ... and all principles of Islam."
Ultra-conservative Sunni groups, mainly Saudi Wahabists, refer to Shiites as "rejectionists" and consider their beliefs non-Islamic.
The Islamic leaders are also expected to approve a name change for the body to the Organisation of Islamic Countries.
The OIC, founded in 1969, is facing a financial crisis, as several member states have not paid their annual contributions.
Non-Muslim leaders of OIC member states have been participating in the Mecca summit via video-conference from Jeddah, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.