Arabs urge unity against Muslim zealots

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The Independent Online
ARAB INTERIOR ministers meeting in Tunis have called for a united front to fight against extremism under the banner of militant Islam.

The move reflects the policy adopted in countries most at risk: that they are dealing with a problem of law and order that can be eradicated through tough police measures, rather than with a social and economic phenomenon that stems from the corruption of governments and their failure to improve standards of living.

The Egyptian Interior Minister, Abdel-halim Moussa, told the Arab League council of interior ministers: 'Our mission should be to set up a strategy to fight terrorism. We should agree on it and commit ourselves not only to secure our nations from a danger which threatens them, but also to protect our religion from those who identify with and commit abominable crimes and destruction on behalf of it.'

Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria are spearheading the fight against the extremist violence that has afflicted their countries. All three blame Islamic extremists for hundreds of killings and acts of sabotage. The three countries have consistently blamed Iran and Sudan for being behind what they call an Islamic International, yet they have failed to produce any evidence of outside interference.

'Those who think that what is happening in Algeria and Egypt, and to a lesser degree in Tunisia, are internal problems, are gravely mistaken,' said Algeria's Interior Minister, Mohamed Hardi, on arrival in Tunis for the talks.

On the eve of the meeting, the Pakistani government announced it was to expel more than a million third country nationals who had fought with the Afghan mujahedin. Most are from Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, but many are from Arab countries or are Palestinians. Indeed, throughout Arab countries where Muslim extremists are fighting the government, a prominent role is attributed to mysterious characters known as 'Afghans', that is veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

In Egypt, police yesterday detained 80 suspected Muslim extremists in the southern town of Dairut after three attacks on Coptic Christians and a church left one man dead and one wounded