World Polulation Conference: Vatican and Islamic clerics made 'holy pact' on abortion: Inter-faith alliance forged in Rome to fight UN strategy for termination and birth control

ROME - Proof has emerged for the first time of a Catholic-Muslim pact to forge a common strategy to combat the United Nations plan on population and development. There had been considerable comment about the coincidence of views of the Vatican and many Islamic countries in opposing much of the UN document, especially its provisions concerning abortion and artificial means of birth control.

New evidence shows that this 'Holy Alliance' was carefully co-ordinated, and may signal a new global alliance of the traditional religious authorities to confront what they see as the main dangers facing society today: secularism, consumerism, and the focus on the individual at the expense of the collective.

A three-page document in Arabic secured by La Repubblica (the Independent's sister paper in Italy) records the agreement reached at a meeting on 8 June between senior Vatican officials, including two monsignors, and the representatives of three leading pan-Islamic groups.

The signatories were Mgr Mounghed el Hashim of the office of the Vatican Secretary of State; Mgr Carrascosa Coso Andrez, a diplomat in charge of relations with foreign states; and Father Thomas Michel, head of the Islamic section of the Papal Council for interfaith dialogue. Their co-signatories were Monsef Klibi, of the Islamic Conference Organisation; Abdullah Abdel Shakour of the World Islamic League; and Mohamed al-Bar of the World Islamic Conference.

The three Muslim representatives were invited by the Holy See to the Vatican to discuss the most controversial points of the UN document. They looked at questions of the sanctity of human life, the role of the family and sexual licence. In their common statement they said that they 'opposed the individualistic approach towards life' which pervaded the UN document, to the detriment of family life and the health of society as a whole.