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Albania Muslims to urge Arabs to recognise Kosovo

TIRANA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Albania’s Muslims will send a petition with more than 50,000 signatures to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on Sunday to urge its members to recognise Kosovo, organisers said on Friday.

Their appeal will come two days before Kosovo celebrates the first anniversary of its independence from Serbia. The U.S. and many European countries have recognised the mainly Albanian nation of Muslim heritage, but most Arab countries have not. “To us as Muslims, it came as a surprise that the Arab world did not recognise Kosovo. We thought of appealing to the countries that helped the Kosovo people with humanitarian aid in 1999,” said Agim Baci, one of the organisers.

When Kosovo refugees streamed into Albania proper to escape ethnic cleansing by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, Arab countries set up camps to feed and shelter them.

NATO forces and the United Nations ran Kosovo from 1999 until independence. Ex-ruler Serbia sees Kosovo as the cradle of its Orthodox faith and has vowed never to recognise Kosovo.

Baci, a journalist and Muslim scholar, said Christian Orthodox and Catholic believers also signed the petition.

The Saudi Arabia-based 57-member OIC represents 1.5 billion Muslims. Prime Minister Sali Berisha made Albania a member of the OIC in December 1992.

Around 70 percent of Albania’s 3.2 million population are of Muslim background, but many of them are not active believers. (Reporting by Benet Koleka, editing by Adam Tanner)