Sheikh calls for unity against Iraq war
CAIRO

The head of the world's leading Sunni Muslim authority, the sheikh of Al Azhar, called on the world Monday to unite to prevent a US-led war against Iraq, state media reported.

"The countries of the world must unite to prevent any attack against the Iraqi people, which would lead to upheavals around the world," Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi said, cited by the MENA news agency.

Sheikh Tantawi, speaking during a meeting with the regional envoy of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Ana Liria Franch, also demanded that the international community not "stay silent" in the face of Palestinian suffering amid their bloody conflict with the Israelis.

Franch urged Sheikh Tantawi to appeal to Iraq's neighbors to open their "borders and welcome refugees if there is a war," the report said.

The UNCHR said in October that it was preparing to cope with a wave of refugees of "between tens of thousands and a million" people if there was a conflict in Iraq in an operation that could cost more than 37 million dollars.

During the Gulf War of 1991, more than two million Iraqi Kurds fled northern Iraq for neighboring countries but the exodus was short-lived, according to the UN agency.

The sheikh of Al Azhar is appointed by the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, whose government is seen as a close US ally and a key intermediary in efforts to achieve Arab-Israeli peace, while strongly opposed to a war on Iraq.

AFP

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