KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday that Islamic states had discussed using oil as leverage in their campaign to oppose moves to wage war in Iraq to force its disarmament.
Countries meeting for informal talks of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur discussed the possibility of using "oil as a weapon" in the anti-war campaign, Mahathir said at a news conference following the consultations.
Mahathir said participants acknowledged there would be "repercussions" if they sought to use their control over the world's oil market in their campaign to avert a war against Baghdad, but said some felt they should start thinking about this option.
Forty-seven of the organization's 57 member states met at the informal talks, including representatives from major producers Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The group also discussed making "common cause" with anti-war protesters in Western countries, and line up behind France and Germany in efforts to head off moves toward war in the UN Security Council, Mahathir said.
The idea of using oil as leverage to influence U.S. policy on Iraq has been raised before, but has never achieved consensus among top producers, especially U.S. allies in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, has never wanted to repeat the global economic recession triggered by the 1973 oil embargo launched in response to the Arab-Israeli war.
Even without an oil embargo, Mahathir predicted in an interview last week with The Associated Press that war against Iraq - which has the world's second largest proven reserves - could push oil prices up to an unprecedented US$50 a barrel.
The OIC talks were hastily arranged by Malaysia to gather leaders of Muslim nations already in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit, which ended Tuesday.
The summit tried to head off an Iraq war with the twin strategies of strongly urging Iraq to comply with UN demands to disarm, while making plain the group's opposition to a U.S.-led war.
Staunchly anti-war Malaysia, which takes over the chairmanship of the OIC in October, originally proposed an emergency meeting that would have been expected to reach a definitive position on Iraq before momentum toward war becomes unstoppable.
But current chairman Qatar, which is hosting U.S. troops massing for a possible war and singled out for criticism by Iraq, rejected that proposal, agreeing instead to hold an emergency OIC meeting in early March.
Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told reporters at the non-aligned that Iraq wasn't getting enough Arab support and that he was especially disappointed that some Arab nations say they oppose a war on Baghdad while hosting U.S. troops. Iraq has rejected any OIC meeting in Qatar, fearing an unfavorable outcome.