UN conference rejects religious terrorism
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Countries attending a U.N. interfaith conference on Thursday rejected the use of religion to justify acts of terrorism, the killing of innocent civilians, violence and coercion.
A declaration agreed by participants from 80 nations at the high-level meeting expressed concern at "serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, expressions of hatred and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths."
The participants "underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, understanding and tolerance among human beings, as well as respect for all their diverse religions, cultures and beliefs."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon read the declaration near the end of the two-day meeting which was initiated by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and brought 14 world leaders to New York including the U.S., Pakistani, Afghan and Israeli presidents.
"King Abdullah’s initiative has come at a time when the need for dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations has never been greater," Ban told a news conference. "It has brought together people who might not otherwise have a chance to interact. ... The challenge now is to go beyond the powerful, positive words we have heard."
Among the leaders brought together - at least in the same room - were the Saudi king and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Peres had rare praise for the Saudi monarch, saying Wednesday his initiative to end the Arab-Israeli conflict inspired hope that all countries in the Middle East could live in peace.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal expressed disappointment Thursday that Peres only talked positively about parts of the Arab peace plan - and didn’t mention others.
The plan calls for Arab recognition of the Jewish state in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from all lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war. But Israel objects to relinquishing all territory and the right of all Palestinians to return, and it wants to keep a unified Jerusalem as its capital.