Russia Keen to Join Pan-Islamic Organisation
Regional-Russia, Politics, 8/7/2003
Russia has expressed keen interest to join the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) either as a member or an observer, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Wednesday.
However, the decision to accept Russia rests squarely on the consensus of the 56-member organisation, said Albar in statements reported by Malysian news agency Bernama.
He said Russia's interest was brought up by President Vladimir Putin during his two-day official visit to Malaysia beginning Monday since Kuala Lumpur would be hosting the 10th OIC Summit in October and would assume the chairmanship of the organisation.
"When I received him (Putin) at the airport, he mentioned Russia's interest to be a member of the OIC, at least as an observer, since Russia has a bigger Muslim population (exceeding 20 million) than Malaysia.
"And Islam is one of the country's state religions," he told reporters at the Foreign Ministry.
Syed Hamid said Putin also mentioned that Russian Muslims were not immigrants but indigenous people of the country.
"I asked him to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) and he (Putin) brought it up during his discussions with Dr Mahathir and also with Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi," he said.
"As the decision on the observer status and membership is based on the consensus that has to be obtained (from OIC members), what we (Malaysia) will do is, we will consult other OIC members on this request by Russia," he said.
On Malaysia's stand on Russia's request, Syed Hamid said: "Malaysia has no problem on the basis of creating better understanding of Islam and an Islamic country.
"Moreover, there are other countries within OIC that are not totally an Islamic country, but they have become members. I think on that score, maybe (it is) constructively useful for Russia to be considered.
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