• Short Summary

    A five-day conference on defence and the Moslem world opened in London on Monday (5 February).

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    A five-day conference on defence and the Moslem world opened in London on Monday (5 February). Its major aim is to create a better understanding of Islamic military concepts around the world. It was also conceived as a forum to discuss ways and means for Moslem countries, singly and collectively, to develop their defence strength to ensure peaceful and stable conditions, allowing them to make economic and social progress.

    SYNOPSIS: The conference was held at the Heathrow Hotel -- close to London's major airport -- and began with a recitation from the Holy Koran.

    The welcoming address came from Mr. Salem Azzam, secretary-general of the Islamic Council of Europe, one of the co-sponsors of the conference. The other sponsor was the Islamic Institute of Defence Technology, which is based in London. The institute's primary aim is to help Moslem countries to achieve an effective defence capability. Achieving this would, Mr. Azzam said, benefit the industrialised nations, who depend heavily on their oil and mineral resources, and whose co-operation the Moslem countries need in the major development projects they are undertaking.

    The institute's charter sets down ten broad objectives. These include launching major educational and training programmes to overcome the acute shortage of qualified people capable of handling highly-sophisticated defence equipment, and recruiting qualified moslems now working in Western countries. The institute will also help to set up maintenance facilities for modern weapon systems to move member countries towards greater technical independence. It will help set up training facilities inside their boundaries and evaluate weapon system for them.

    A survey of defence forces of the Moslem world shows that the 1978/79 defence budgets of thirty-eight of the forty-two countries where figures were available total more than thirty-six billion U.S. dollars. Nine countries are spending around ninety percent of this amount. They are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. Of these, two nations -- Saudi Arabia and Iran -- are spending just over half of the total -- or almost twenty billion dollars.

    The survey said the regular defence forces of the thirty-eight Moslem nations -- excluding paramilitary forces -- added up to just over three and half a million persons, compared to the two and three quarter million personnel in the NATO forces -- excluding the United States.

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