"And thou shall take refuge in the braid of unity that god hath dangled before all of thee." The Vice-Chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim, Al Duri quoted this verse from the holy Koran as he began his speech to a hastily arranged emergency summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in March. The gathering of the 57-member IOC was called by the organisation's chairman, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in the hope of raising a unified voice from the Islamic world against war with Iraq. The meeting was held at a five-star hotel in Doha, only a short distance from Al Udeid, a vast American military base, which will serve as the headquarters for the invasion commander, General Tommy Franks, and a launching pad for airstrikes.
The Islamic summit came 10 days after a gathering of non-aligned countries in Malaysia and only three days after a meeting of the Arab League held in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt. The most tantalising notion of the gathering was the proposal, first heard at the Arab League meeting, from the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, for Saddam Hussein to go into exile.
Within the first hour, the televised opening session descended into a mudslinging match between the Iraqis and the Kuwaitis. In his speech, which was the 11th on a list of 24 by delegates from the 54 nations who attended, Iraq's Izzat Al Duri accused the Kuwaitis of being "agents of imperialism who had helped mass American troops year after year on Iraq's borders".
He was angered, he later told reporters, by Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad's support for the UAE's proposal, made at Sharm el Sheikh suggesting Saddam should go into exile. Mr Al Sabah had described the UAE initiative as bold, wise and realistic in that it aimed at sparing the Iraqi nation the ills of war.
Kuwaiti Information Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahd, who waved a miniature Kuwaiti flag during Mr Al Duri's tirade, later stormed out of the hall towards a mass of reporters and television cameras where he provided a list of Iraq's violations of agreements and resolutions reached at previous Arab and non-allied summits.
There is a history of bad blood between the Kuwaitis and Mr Al Duri. He is seen by Kuwaitis as `untrustworthy' after double-crossing them in 1990 when he embraced Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Saad Al Abdallah in Jeddah agreeing a settlement, then sneaked back to Baghdad...