By SEAN YOONG
The Associated Press
Friday, July 28, 2006; 7:06 AM
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Five Muslim countries denounced Israel's offensive in Lebanon on Friday, calling for an immediate halt to the hostilities.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan held hastily called talks on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Kuala Lumpur to discuss "their grave concern over the deteriorating situation and unabated violence" in Lebanon and occupied Palestinian territories, according to a joint statement.
"The ministers strongly condemned Israel's military actions and indiscriminate and excessive use of force," the statement said. The countries "called for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire."
The talks were arranged after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived in Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur's invitation.
"We are all very concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. There is no other issue more important right now," Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, told The Associated Press.
Protests against Israel's onslaught also broke out in several Muslim countries Friday.
Hundreds of protesters broke through a police cordon and marched to the convention center in Kuala Lumpur where U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting with other foreign ministers. They raised their fists and chanted slogans against Washington's refusal to condemn Israel's bombardment of Lebanon.
In Indonesia, thousands of people protested in several cities, waving banners and calling Israeli and U.S. leaders "the real terrorists."
"It's ironic that America shouts about peace and democracy, and then supports Israel when it kills innocent Muslims," said Arief Trisarjono, who led some 100 protesters in front of the U.S. embassy in the capital, Jakarta. "How can they stop terrorism against the West if they always make Muslims angry?"
About 2,500 Muslims marched through Bangladesh's capital, burning Israeli and American flags and effigies of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Malaysia earlier this week proposed an emergency summit of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Islamic political grouping, to discuss the Mideast crisis.
Araghchi said it was unclear if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would attend the summit next week. "Obviously Iran will take part on the highest level possible," he said.
Iran and Syria are major patrons of Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla group whose July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers provoked Israel's onslaught.
Iran also helps funds Hamas, the ruling Palestinian militant group. Militants linked to Hamas crossed into Israel on June 25 and also seized an Israeli soldier, provoking an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Associated Press writers Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this story