updated 4/22/2004 5:51:24 AM ET 2004-04-22T09:51:24

Islamic countries on Thursday urged the United Nations to return to Iraq and take "a central role" in restoring peace and security, citing grave concerns about heavy civilian casualties and alleged abuses by the U.S.-led occupying forces.

Delegates to a special session of the 57-members Organization of the Islamic Conference urged the U.N. Security Council to pass a new resolution giving the world body the "necessary mandate" to restore peace in Iraq.

They did not give a timetable for such a resolution, saying only that it should come "in due course." Elsewhere, however, the meeting urged the current U.S.-backed administrators to stick to their June 30 deadline to hand power back to Iraqis.

"We recognize and stress the importance of the United Nations in playing a central role to establish peace, security and stability in Iraq," a draft statement by delegates to the meeting says.

A Security Council resolution should empower the United Nations "with the necessary mandate and authority to ensure the achievement of this goal," says the draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Gaza plan condemned
In a separate statement, delegates condemned Israel's plan to withdraw from Gaza but keep some settlements in Palestinian territory, and criticized the U.S. government for supporting it.

"We strongly reject the recent unilateral plan of withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, as it breaches the resolutions of international legitimacy (and) contradicts ... the foundations of the peace process," said the draft.

It also urged the Security Council to prevent further assassinations of Palestinians by Israel and called for U.N. peacekeepers to monitor the peace process.

The two declarations are expected to be formally adopted later Thursday.

Opening an emergency meeting of Islamic states, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned that the deteriorating situation in Iraq and in Palestinian territories threatened stability in the Middle East.

Some OIC countries arrived at the one-day session saying they might send troops to protect the United Nations if the world body returns to Iraq, though it was not on the agenda. The United Nations pulled its staff from Iraq in October after two bombings at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Delegates condemned the latest violence in Iraq -- suicide bombings Wednesday that killed at least 68 people in the southern city of Basra -- and suggested they added urgency to the deliberations.

"Such terrorist acts should be eradicated from the whole world, not just Iraq," Iraqi delegate Ghasann Mohsen told Associated Press Television News. "It should be faced with a strong will from the international community, the OIC, the Arab League, the United Nations -- all international organizations."

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who addressed the meeting as OIC chairman, said the current administration in Iraq had failed to meet "the hopes and expectations" of the international community.

"Gone are the joy and jubilation of some Iraqis (at) the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein," he said. "What we see today is nothing less than the fierce resistance of people against what is increasingly seen as an occupation force."

In the draft statement, delegates expressed "grave concern over the current situation in Iraq, in particular the sheer disregard to the protection of civilians, thus resulting in heavy civilian casualties."

Similar concerns were expressed about "the deliberate and irresponsible targeting and destruction" of places of worship by occupying forces.

Actions on both counts were a clear breach of the Geneva conventions, the statement said.

The meeting was called at short notice after in response to this month's surge in violence between U.S. troops and insurgents in Iraq and the White House's backing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for "unilateral disengagement" from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Of the 20 delegations at the meeting, only Pakistan, Indonesia and the Palestinians sent foreign ministers. Other countries are represented by lower-level officials.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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